Helping Kids Cope with Grief and Loss Through the Holidays
The holidays pose special concerns for children coping with grief and loss. At a time when the world around them seems merry and bright, children with grief may struggle to a great extent. Yet, there are some things we can do to help them cope.
5 Tips to Help with Grief and Loss at Holiday Time
1. Do You Hear What I Hear? LISTEN. Listen. It's simple, it's effective and it matters. Allow grieving children to talk about whatever it is they wish. Validate their feelings. "That's tough." "How frustrating." "Your sad is super-sized right now." Notice the "right now"? That's a really important qualifier. It recognizes the current state of emotion, yet offers hope for the future.
2. Allow all feelings. While it's normal for us to want to tell grieving children, "It will all be okay," it's important to refrain from this. We need to stick in the moment with the child, hear how they are feeling right NOW and not try to pull them towards moving on before they are ready. Grief must be expressed one way or another. Talking about feelings is a healthy way to express it.
3. Get Their Input. Ask kids what they think about how to celebrate through their grief. Past family traditions may be too difficult to manage. Ask about what traditions the child thinks should be "kept" and what should be "put on hold". Play things by ear and tweak as you go.
4. Be Flexible. A child may say, "I don't want to go caroling this year. I'd miss mom too much." On a later date, they may change their mind. That is okay. Be flexible. Go with the flow.
5. Create New Traditions. Ask the child if she would like to come up with a new way to celebrate or honor the memory of the deceased loved one. Perhaps lighting a candle in their memory through the holidays, creating a special "memory" tree with ornaments that reflect the deceased person's hobbies, or making a donation in their memory to a favorite charity.
6. Don't forget to have some fun. Grief is heavy and taxing. It exhausts young and old alike. When moments of laughter seep in, grab onto them. Find ways to lighten the load and take a break from the heaviness of grief.
7. Keep the communication flowing. Just because a child or teen does not feel like talking about something one day, or even one hour, does not mean he won't talk about it later. Keep asking, without harassing.
"There is no grief like the grief that does not speak."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Kidlutions has helped thousands of grieving children. Our resources that can help with grief include: