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Navigating Holiday Grief for Children

Photo Credit: Daria Obymaha

Handling grief during the holidays can be challenging, as this time of year often dredges up memories of those we’ve lost. For children, it can be extra difficult since it’s often hard for them to understand their emotions and openly share their feelings of sadness for those they have lost. Below are some thoughtful suggestions from our LifeSkills team on how to navigate this holiday season while remembering those who have passed.

  • Create a tradition to include family members who have passed.  Some families have a special ornament for their tree, some light a candle or ring a bell.  You can also hang a stocking on the mantel in honor of your cherished family members who have passed, symbolizing their presence.
  • Give your child space to talk about their feelings associated with the loss of a loved one. Understand that your child’s feelings associated with grief and loss may present in non-traditional ways, such as behavioral problems or anger.
  • Plan activities to do with your immediate family. Consider surprising your children by doing their favorite activity or holiday tradition. Skipping a holiday or a loved tradition can exacerbate feelings of loss, so it’s important to embrace the season.
  • It’s important to not let your teenagers isolate too much during their holiday break. While spending time alone can have its advantages, excessive isolation can lead to feelings of sadness and sorrow.
  • Enjoy new experiences with your family in honor of your loved one’s memory, maybe something that they would have wanted to participate in. Afterward, make a point to discuss how this activity made each person feel.
  • Focus on remembering the good memories instead of the loss. This approach allows you to experience joy while also keeping those memories alive. Focusing solely on the loss develops a sense of negativity around the person’s memory over time.
  • Try incorporating empty chair techniques into your holiday gatherings and leaving plates out for those who have passed. You can also honor those you’ve lost by incorporating their religious or cultural practices into your celebrations.

Remember, we are stronger together. Spend time with those you love this holiday season! For additional guidance on dealing with mental health this holiday season, we recommend reading: Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays | McLean Hospital.

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