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Helping a bereaved child through Christmas and New Year

Published on: December 20, 2021

Our Barnsley Mental Health Support Team Bereavement Counsellor, Helen Scouller has these thoughts to help families support children over the Christmas period.

Helen says:

“All bereavement is different and people find different things helpful – I guess it’s about looking at some ideas and finding a best fit for you and your family…”

Plan some time to think and talk about the person who has died

Dedicating some time during the period to think, toast and/or talk about the person who has died can give everyone permission to acknowledge their feelings. This is important for children and young people because they may need the adults around them to show them that discussion about missing someone is normal and healthy, rather than out of bounds. In truth, everyone will be thinking about the person, so being open about that can be a relief.

Perhaps you could talk about what the person who died liked about the season?

Give yourself and others time to remember, and accept what you each need to do to help with that

Allowing everyone the time to do what they need in order to remember,, and talking about what that might be,, accepts everyone’s different needs. Organising this, by enabling each family member to share what they need to do to remember the person, could be supportive..

Each person will have different ways to help them remember, for example someone may prefer to have a  hot drink and a quiet look out of the window, another person may like to sing songs loudly, or run around the park.

Make a new tradition, including the memory of the person who has died

Build in time to make a new tradition around the occasion and start to make memories that include the person who has died, in a different way.

For example, this might be by having a walk somewhere that the person loved, or by playing a game they liked.

Remember it’s ok to have fun at Christmas time

Everyone needs to be able to have time away from their sadness and it’s neither dishonouring or a measure of your love for the person who died if they are not at the front of your mind at times. So it is alright to enjoy yourselves and laugh. This is particularly important to remember for children and young people who must not feel guilty if the occasion is exciting and distracting.

Helen adds: “A really good model of grief for these times was created by Stroebe and Schut who describe grief needing to be both about the loss and the restorative activities; so times of terrible sadness and some when new memories are being made. It suggests that for grief to be healthy doing both might be helpful.”

Visit our Bereavement counselling service web page.

It is part of our Barnsley Mental Health Support Team.