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Kids and Grief: Not so normal Holiday Season




I recently read an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer updated on September 7, 2021. The title alone struck my heart cords. Millions have lost a loved one to covid-19…grief’s mental is heavy on kids. Can you sit with that number without thinking about the pain and trauma kids are facing? Of course, there are unnatural causes, mental health crisis, and community issues that also play apart in the current grief of children. What shouldn’t be lost in the numbers are the long-term effects this trauma will have. I would be remiss if I neglect the fact that my own children are included in this number.


Holidays can be a joyous time for some families and a constant reminder of loved ones that aren’t here anymore. With the decreasing numbers of Covid-19, many families are anxious to see one another. Being mindful of your children’s behaviors during this time is an important part of their grief process (its so different from ours parents!). As we weave our way out of the uncharted territory, here are a few tips to help you navigate this holiday season!


1. Its okay if they sleep in prior to guest arriving!


I know some of you all might read this and instantly think about how a slug moves faster than your child (in all ages brackets). This simple step is not about resistance parents but in fact building up the energy to be present. Give them this time to gather themselves. Prepare clothes the night before, acknowledge this time is hard for them, and set an expectation.


2. Normalize talking about your loved one.


Myth buster: talking about a loved one does not prolong the grief process. Kids need conversation and many times adults leave them out of any conversation related to grief/death. Talk about your loved one during the holiday season. If there was a specific song, play it. A specific dish, make it together. Allowing your child to be open and raw about their emotions will not only help them feel better but you as well! Remember not to get upset, children often feel death is their fault or they could have done something to prevent it. Acknowledge your grief as well parents!


3. Keeping the Old Traditions and make new memories


It is important to note that many children may have lost a caregiver that played a significant role in their daily lives. Children living with family members (kinship care) can feel that their tradition is lost or feel pressured to acclimate themselves into a new tradition. Take this time to acknowledge and participate in a traditional activity. The tradition will still be there and creating new memories will assist with the feelings of inclusion.


4. Create a “recuperate” area


Hosting an event can be stressful. Rather you are an introvert or extrovert, there are times throughout social events you may want to “gather yourself”. The same process goes for kids! Prior to guest arriving, discuss what area in the home will be designated to recuperate from the social event. Ensure this area is still in eyesight for appropriate supervision purposes. Include favorite holiday crafts, books and coping skills games. Set a timed expectation that’s age appropriate to ensure they return to the party!


Reference


The Philadelphia Inquirer. (updated Sept 7, 2021). Millions have lost a loved one to Covid-19. Grief’s mental and physical burden is especially heavy on kids. Retrieved from: Child grief over COVID-19 deaths difficult to cope with (inquirer.com)

Resources

Developmental Understanding of Death and Loss: https://goodgrief0538.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Developmental-Understanding-of-Death-and-Loss.pdf


14-Day Holiday Gratitude Journal: https://goodgrief0538.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/14-Day-Holiday-Gratitude-Journal.pdf


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