Beth is part of our Family and Carer Support Team here at the Hospice and she has written this blog with some advice on how you can support a child going through bereavement at Christmas…
Christmas can be a confusing time for children whose natural way is to be excited about the festivities. It is possible that after having lost someone special to them, this excitement and joy can elicit a sense of guilt. Children may feel bad for any positive feelings following a bereavement, particularly at this time of year when traditions will no longer be the same.
But children need reassurance that it’s ok to feel excited on Christmas Day and this is something they can look to their loved ones for. It is a natural response to feel excitement at Christmas and children may need to be reminded of this.
Some children who have been bereaved may talk openly about their special person on Christmas Day but others may find talking about them to be too much. They might join in with the festivities the day holds but in moderation; they could appear a little more withdrawn than usual and want to spend some time on their own. Children might need their own space to process what is going on for them and to get in touch with how they are feeling on Christmas Day without their loved one.
If a child seems open to it and is willing to discuss their bereavement, it can be beneficial to do some remembrance activities together over the festive period. These can include a memory box that could be filled over the weeks leading up to Christmas, popped under the tree and opened when the big day arrives. It could be making a candle holder that represents particular memories of the loved one with a candle lit inside each night. It could even just be having a gentle conversation with a child about their special person, sharing memories of previous Christmases and what they miss about them being there.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to grieving, there is no right or wrong way. A child might start a conversation about their special person who has died and how their absence is affecting them but they might not. They might behave in a way that is completely usual for them and not mention their special person or they may be upset and quiet. Children need to know that the way they are feeling is completely acceptable and normal.
The festive period without that special person there is difficult and will feel completely alien. But the key is to be gentle with yourself as you and your family and children work through it together.
Here is a helpful contact:-
Childline – 0800 1111 (Open every day throughout the year 24/7)
To find out more about how we support children including over the Christmas period please visit www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/child-bereavement-service