Dealing with the Loss of a Child During the Holidays
Many of us are more aware of loss in our lives during the holiday season. Perhaps the hardest loss of all is for those families who have experienced the death of a child or grandchild and who are going through the grief and bereavement associated with this exceptionally painful event. With so much of the holiday season centered on children and families, constant reminders of the child’s absence are prominent and painful. During this time of year, many grieving families would like to simply flip the calendar to January 2nd.
Following are some suggestions that those suffering from this loss may find helpful during this often tragic and difficult time:
• Spend time talking about the special qualities and characteristics of the deceased child. Sharing memories with others can be a healthy part of the grieving process. Don’t be surprised if your sadness alternates with times of laughter and happy memories.
• Decide in advance how you want to spend the holiday season. Do you want to follow the traditions of years past or create new traditions? Beginning new traditions may be helpful. Forget the tree this year or go to a vacation spot for the holidays. Perhaps visit a new place of worship and attend only those parties and other holiday events you want to, rather than need to.
• Do something to memorialize your loved one. Light a candle each night during the holidays, donate items to those in need, or give a book to the library in your child’s memory.
• Recognize the importance of surviving siblings and try to make their holidays a happy time.
Shakespeare once wrote, “Give sorrow words…” Make a daily journal reflecting your feelings during the holidays. Write Christmas cards to friends and family with a short story or poem about your feelings. Speak to people in a support group about your journey through grief and loss. Take special care of yourself, recognizing that grief can be very emotionally draining and stressful.
For many people, religious faith and spiritual guidance can be a great comfort during times of tragedy and often faith is one of the most helpful parts of the grieving process.
If you know someone who has recently experienced the loss of a loved one, especially a child, give him extra support and care this holiday season.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright 2003