Handling Holidays and Special Anniversaries with Grieving Children

Holidays and special anniversaries can be very difficult for grieving children, especially in the first year after a death. Holidays and anniversaries serve both as a reminder of the loss and of pleasant memories of the person who has died.

Often, the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the holiday itself, and sometimes, watching other children enjoy holidays deepens the void that a grieving child feels.

Involve children in holiday planning

Let a bereaved child know in advance that he/she might experience some painful feelings during the holiday or anniversary. Planning in advance can make these events more tolerable.

Slightly alter old holiday rituals or create new ones.

Some holidays are harder than others

Mother’s and Father’s Day can be particularly difficult for a child who has lost a parent. A child may decide to take a “substitute mother” to a Mother’s Day banquet or a "substitute father" to a father-daughter dance, for example.

Some children often choose to celebrate the birthday of their parent by baking a cake, lighting candles and making a birthday gift.

  • If children feel a need to commemorate their loved one, offer to take the on a visit to the cemetery or a special place that brings back positive memories of a parent.
  • Other holidays can be commemorated in the same way, by giving gifts, sharing memories and developing special rituals.

Anniversaries can trigger emotions

As the first anniversary of a parent's death approaches, children often find themselves reliving very intensely the last days of their loved one’s life. They might need extra reassurance and support.

  • Adults can help by sharing their own feelings about the anniversary and special memories about the person who has died.

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.

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