Children, Loss and the Holidays

By: Sherry Williams White
Monday, November 9, 2015

Since they are dealing with so many changes, be sure to tell your children you will, in fact, be celebrating the holidays. This assurance offers a child the security he or she needs to understand that not all in life will be altered because of the death of a parent, sibling or other special person. Early in the season, ask for feedback from ALL family members regarding the alteration or continuance of family holiday traditions.

While adults are inclined to feel and talk about a profound sadness during the holidays, children are often able to separate the joy of the occasion from the grief of their loss. Because children appear to be happy, adults may avoid discussing the deceased so as not to upset their children. Giving children extra gifts to "make up" for the loss is another way in which parents try to help children cope with loss. However, neither method helps.

In her book, Seasons of Grief, Dr. Gaffney tells us, "Nothing can replace the loss in their lives. Children need extra time and attention on these occasions, not extra things."

Since they are dealing with so many changes, be sure to tell your children you will, in fact, be celebrating the holidays. This assurance offers a child the security he or she needs to understand that not all in life will be altered because of the death of a parent, sibling or other special person. Early in the season, ask for feedback from ALL family members regarding the alteration or continuance of family holiday traditions.

Especially during the first holiday season without your loved one, do what is comfortable for everyone. There are a number of special activities that you as a family can do together to honor and remember your loved one. Donating a book to the community library, saying a special prayer, lighting a memory candle, hanging a special ornament, displaying a decoration, writing a note or drawing a picture are samples of what some children have found to be meaningful memorials.

During the holidays, a child's philosophy is simple; the world will go on and there will be joy. It is their special gift to adults.

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