By Sarah Audu, LSW – December 22, 2021 –
Grief is often viewed as a sensitive subject, for obvious reasons. It is something we tend to maneuver around with caution. This is likely because each person experiences some form of grief in their lifetime, and we as humans are empathetic towards each other.
We want to handle each other’s struggles and emotions with care. An even more fragile subject to consider is the grief of a child. It is our human nature to want to be gentle and cautious when helping a child who is experiencing something difficult in their life. This can lead to us being hesitant for fear of saying the wrong thing as we try to support them.
Losing a loved one is not the only form of grief a child may experience. Grief can be the emotional result of many scenarios, such as a child’s parents getting a divorce or a best friend moving away. These difficult situations produce hard emotions for the child, because they are experiencing change, pain, and loss. When a child experiences these changes, he/she must learn to cope in the the best ways they know how.
The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time for all. However, many people dread this time of year due to the pain and grief they are feeling inside. One child may be struggling this holiday season because this is the first year her family will be celebrating Christmas without her father, who suddenly passed away. Another child may be trying to cope with their mother living across the country, confused and unsure when they will get to see mom again.
Every person deals with grief, pain, and loss differently. Experiencing depression, anxiety, and sadness is often viewed as the “normal” emotional reaction to grief. However, some people may state they feel alright most of the time. It may be more healing and beneficial for them to go through their daily routine as they did before, and deal with the painful stings of grief as they arise.
Children are very resilient. They are commonly much stronger than we imagine them to be, especially while facing a challenging situation that has caused them emotional pain. Something we can do to ease the pain of grieving children during the holidays is to follow their lead in conversation and pay close attention to how they are handling their emotions. They may surprise you and show exactly what they need from you in that moment.
Some children may want to deal with their grief in this season by continuing with past traditions and including their loved ones in a new way. Children may also want to start different traditions and create new memories.
What we know for sure is that children have big hearts, and this season gives us a wonderful opportunity to hold them a little closer and give them the support they need during challenging times.