It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since your loved one has died, the prospect of celebrating Christmas without them can be incredibly painful. For children and young people, Christmas can be quite daunting as they will often feel a whole range of emotions. Naturally, they will want to enjoy this special time of year but will often feel guilty for doing so as they know that part of them is missing.

Sally is a Children’s Worker at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, where she supports children and young people through bereavement and grief. She shared her advice on how to support a bereaved young person during the festive season.

Encourage communication

Always encourage communication between families and loved ones. Most children and teenagers will miss hearing their loved one’s name and mostly love hearing tales of the person, so don’t be afraid to mention them.

Do something special

Doing something creative can allow children and young people to express their grief in a different way, often providing an opportunity to talk about the person who has died. Ask your child if they have any ideas on how they’d like to honour their loved one. It could involve making a bauble for the tree, cooking that person’s favourite festive food or lighting a candle in their memory. 

Visit somewhere meaningful

It is good for children and young people to maintain a connection with the person who has died, particularly if it is a parent or significant carer such as a grandparent. Visiting a special place can give your child time to think about their loved one and hopefully encourage them to talk about them.

It’s ok to have different feelings

One moment, your child may seem completely unaffected by the death and is enjoying the festivities and then the next, they may be crying. This is completely normal and you should let children know this.

Don’t hide your own grief

It’s natural to want to protect your child from any sadness but it’s good for them to see that others are grieving too. If you cry, don’t hide it from them – it will show that it’s completely normal to cry and feel upset.

Here at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, we've recently launched Growing Together, a peer support group for bereaved children and young people. The group aims to increase your child’s confidence, reduce isolation and help them to manage any difficult feelings they may be experiencing. The group is open to all children, whether or not their loved one was supported by the Hospice. To find out more, please contact the Hospice’s Children’s Team on 0121 752 8753 or email [email protected]