December has reached her midpoint and a brand new year is just around the corner. Festive trappings adorn living-rooms and storefronts, school is finally out, and loved ones gather in celebration. While the holiday season peaks in December, for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, the holidays can be another reminder of their loss.
At Erin’s House, we acknowledge that the holidays are a difficult time for grieving children and teens. They will often use school as a distraction from the reality of their grief. With that distraction no longer available, youths are forced to confront the difficult thoughts and feelings associated with the death of their loved one.
Without a proper outlet for these thoughts and feelings, emotional issues could be amplified. It is important to continuously acknowledge the grief of your child or teen. There are many creative ways to approach and address grief. Keeping these points in mind, we have created a few activities that can help our youth cope with their grief throughout this holiday season.
The Holiday Letter
Encourage your child or teen write a holiday letter to their loved one who died. This could be a “year in review” letter, a friendly update, or anything they feel needs to be said. It could be read aloud or remain sealed in an envelope. Writing often allows children and teens the ability to express thoughts and feelings they don't feel comfortable with sharing aloud.
The Stocking Stuffer
Have your child or teen make a stocking for their loved one who died. They can decorate and display it however they want. Then, have them write a memory or emotion they have about their loved one on a small piece of paper, fold it, and place it in the stocking. This can be done anytime they may have a thought or feeling about their person throughout the holiday season. As the stocking fills, your child or teen may choose to read these thoughts aloud, privately revisit them, or just leave them in the stocking.
Create an ornament of remembrance. This can be as simple or as elaborate as your child or teen would like. The goal here is to create a visual representation of their loved one who died. A painted bulb, a popsicle stick creation, or a decorated paper plate are good ways to start. The ornament could be hung on a tree, a mantel place, or anywhere that seems fitting.
Create New Traditions of Remembrance
Acclimating to the death of a loved one during the holiday season is hard. Family traditions that previously included the loved one will feel very different. There is, however, an opportunity to create a new tradition to remember their loved one. It could be something simple like a time to share memories or placing a photo above the fireplace. The idea is to remember the loss while creating something new.
At Erin's House, a safe and supportive environment is provided for grieving children and teens. Erin's House allows participants to speak openly about their grief. Our small peer groups help minimize unresolved grief, prevent misinterpretation of grieving behaviors, allow for the normalization of the changes and effects of grief, and enhance well-being throughout the grieving journey. All of this is offered at no cost to participants.
"Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about her death.
Perhaps we can talk about her life."
— Terry Kettering
Erin’s House is here to support our community through their grief. If you are in need of resources or support, please reach out to us to speak with a Child Grief Specialist: Info@ErinsHouse.org or 260.423.2466.
Scott Hobbie | Erin’s House Facilitator