The loss of a loved one affects everyone within a family. Young children especially may not act extremely upset about a loss initially or might seem to be coping well if the loss was a while ago. When the holidays roll around it can bring up memories of the deceased causing children to be faced with a fresh wave of grief from missing that special person. These helpful tips can aid caregivers as they assist their children to cope with grief.
Encourage Them to Express Their Emotions
There are many stages of grief. It is not healthy for anyone to contain these strong feelings and emotions. Instead, encourage them to tell their parents or caregivers what is on their mind and how they feel. This is best done during a quiet or alone moment together. There are triggers that will remind them of their lost loved one that can cause them to unexpectedly feel emotional. Take advantage of this moment to comfort the child, remind them they are loved, and that their feelings are completely normal.
Reminisce Favorite Holiday Stories and Continue Traditions
Throughout the holidays share fond memories of the deceased. This can happen anywhere like in the car on the way to school, while playing at a park, or Christmas shopping. Family traditions that were established by the deceased or that they participated in can be difficult for children. Keep their memory alive by continuing these favorite activities together or modernizing them to pay homage to the loved one. Perhaps before the holiday meal, everyone can share a memory or a special candle can stay lit as a tribute. Every family is different, but the most important thing to avoid is ignoring a child’s grief and simply moving forward as if nothing happens. That teaches them that their feelings are wrong and to withhold them.
To help cope with grief it often helps to have a visual aid or physical outlet to self-express. Individually or as a family, children can make a photo collage, paint a picture, write a story, or any other activity that allows them to freely feel and think about the loss. These artistic options are an aid in the healing process.
Children remember the loss of a loved one even more poignantly during the holiday season. The traditional activities that once brought joy might instead bring tears as the child remembers the role that the loved one used to play. As they feel grief it is up to parents and caregivers to guide them through this challenging time. Expressing emotions, sharing stories, keeping traditions, and self-expression can help the child heal. Grieving children simply need guidance.