Coping with Grief During the Holidays
The “most wonderful time of the year” can feel anything but that when you’ve lost a loved one. Holiday traditions can bring painful reminders instead of the previous joy. These traditions can be hard to face, especially if it’s the first year without a loved one.
Helping your children navigate the complex emotions during it all can become overwhelming. You and your children are not alone. Here are ways to manage grief during the holiday season.
Accept your and your child’s feelings. The holidays can bring up many different emotions. Those emotions will look different for everyone. Try your best to acknowledge and accept your child’s emotions along with your own. Don’t place judgment on your feelings. It’s OK to feel happy, sad, or both at the same time. This might be confusing for younger children. Naming feelings can help accept them.
Don’t pretend the death didn’t occur. No one forgets a loved one is gone. Pretending won’t make it better or ease the pain. It can add to the confusion, especially with children. Talk openly with your child about how you both feel.
Maintain healthy habits and some kind of schedule. When kids are out of school, it can be easy for them to lose a schedule. The holidays can lead to more disruptions. Make sure your child maintains some routines like bedtime for the structure they need for good mental health. But be flexible as they need it. Eating well and exercising can also help with mental health.
Allow this year to be different. Trying to make it the perfect holiday will likely only bring you and your child more stress. Don’t take on more than you can manage. Discuss with your family how to best support each other and decide together how to celebrate the holiday.
Balance new and old traditions. There will be some traditions you keep and some you let go. Maybe your child always baked holiday cookies with their grandma. Do you skip baking, make different cookies, or use grandma’s recipe? Ask your child what they would like to do. Empower your child to work through their grief.
Ask your child how they want to remember their loved one. Maybe it’s writing a letter to the person, setting a place at the table, or singing their favorite carol. Let your child have a say in remembering and honoring the deceased. Here are some remembrance activities for children.
If you or your child are in crisis, call the local Hopeline at 1-800-567-HOPE (4673).
Coping with the Holidays
Document from the Board of Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services
for the full document
If you are in crisis call 1-800-567-HOPE (4673) or text 741 741.