While this time of year generally invites feelings of warmth, joy, and connection, some will face a more challenging reality. For many, the holidays can be a stark reminder of loved ones who are no longer here. The season can be especially challenging for children who do not have the coping skills to manage the complex feelings of grief and sadness that may arise.

Judi’s House Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Micki Burns shares some tips on how to help children navigate grief this holiday season as well as detecting some warning signs that they may need additional support.

Here are some tips on how best to provide support:

  • Let your grieving friend or family member know that you are willing to be with them and just listen.
  • Follow your bereaved friend or family member’s lead in planning and preparing for the holiday, and be open to changes.
  • Plan to be around for the long haul. Grief can be a lifelong process. Having loving supports makes it bearable.

For the bereaved, it is important to pay attention to their grief reactions and practice self-compassion. These steps may help them cope:

  • Reflect on holiday memories and thoughtfully determine what traditions you want to carry forward and what customs you want to change.
  • Plan for the day and related celebrations based on your reflections of what your family wants and needs. As much as possible, determine your limits and boundaries.
  • Communicate your plan to those who support you. Give yourself permission to ask questions. Who will be there? What activities are planned? What will you eat and drink?
  • Remember your person through memorializing activities if the relationship was loving. You may want to create new rituals that you can repeat year after year to make your person a part of the holidays for years to come.
  • Recognize that despite all your preparation, grief waves can be powerful. Identify your go-to coping skills and be willing to let yourself have an out.