Holidays take on a whole new meaning to those grieving a loss. The traditions and any family get-together often feel empty, and at times, awkward. Children look to the adults to model proper behavior for these times. How do we behave? What should we say and do?
Isabella F. who is 13, lost her mother several months ago after a long battle with cancer. I asked her what she would like adults to know about what helps (and does not help) their children when celebrating the holidays for the first time without your loved one. Here is her list.
DO recognize the absence, you do not have to avoid talking about your loved one.
DO let your children know that it is okay to show their feelings as well.
DO NOT get frustrated easily; try to relax and enjoy the holidays. Your child knows that life goes on, and it is okay to show happiness.
DO make sure that you leave time during the chaotic holidays to spend some quality time with your child. If only just a small amount.
DO make sure that your child knows it is okay to do activities with friends, and that they do not feel an obligation to stay home to keep you company.
DO talk about your loved one! Share stories, memories, and it is okay to talk about how much you miss them.
Throughout the year, talk about life in general other than home happenings. Talk about your day and work, school, etc.
I would like to add two more to her list.
DO NOT be afraid to show your feelings in front of your children- it is okay to cry, say you miss them, laugh about a funny memory, etc.
DO continue the traditions that your deceased loved one took part in. If this is not possible, recognize that, and talk about new traditions that you might begin.
Lori and Isabella