.when it’s not the most wonderful time of the year.
The Christmas holiday season is often seen as a joyful occasion, being filled with gifts, songs, family and fun. After all … it’s the most wonderful time of the year! For some children, Christmas may be different this year. Maybe a big change has happened. There might have been a death of a parent, a grandparent, a sibling or beloved pet. Their family dynamic may have changed after a separation, divorce or from an illness. They may have had to move to a new home, town or school. These kind of changes bring up strong feelings that seem to come from afar.
Here at The Rainbow House, we like to use the word AFAR to educate children about the grief process…
A is for accepting a change has happened.
F is for feeling all the feelings that go with changes.
A is for adjusting to a life that is different now and allowing yourself time to heal.
R is for relocating these changes into internal memories of the missing person, pet, home or how it once was. R also stands for resilience… the ability to grow through change and loss by using some inner life tools and external resources.
Remind children that first Christmases, Birthdays, Holidays and other family times may be tough as things are different now.
Let children embrace their feelings and remind them that feelings will come and go … and that’s OK. Sometimes their feelings may be more intense or they may feel a range of emotions at the same time. This is all completely normal after a loss.
Don’t be afraid to speak the name of the person | pet | thing they are missing. Allow children to share stories of their person | pet | thing if they wish to do so.
Help your child create a memory book of past Christmases with the reminder that it is OK to remember and talk of happy times, celebratory times as well as feelings of sadness.
Let children help with Christmas preparations … if it’s something they want to do. If an old tradition become too overwhelming, encourage the child to create a new Christmas tradition as part of their life and how it is now.
Ask if they would like to…
1: create a Christmas decoration for their loved person | pet.
2: make a card for or write a letter to the absent person | pet, thanking them for being in their life.
Sometimes, the holiday season can bring loss to the forefront and stir a flurry of emotions. Here are some tips to help your child when they are grieving through the holiday season…
Give your child a holiday journal to write their thoughts and dreams in. Get them to include a gratitude entry each day that includes one daily thing they are thankful for.
Encourage exercise to get rid of some of the stress chemicals in the body that can build up with grief. In this hot weather, swimming or playing at the beach is an excellent way to release energy.
Create a Happy Holiday playlist of songs that help children relax and sing or sit still and breathe or dance and move.
Encourage children to help others … get them involved in a Christmas activity that helps their local community.