Handling Holidays and Special Anniversaries with Grieving Children
Holidays and special anniversaries can be very difficult for grieving children, especially during the first year. Holidays and anniversaries serve both as a reminder of the loss and of pleasant memories of the deceased. It is sometimes difficult for children to watch others enjoy the holiday when for them it just brings up the void they feel. Often, the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the holiday itself.
It is important to let a bereaved child know in advance that he/she might experience some painful feelings during the holiday or anniversary. It is also helpful to plan in advance ways to make these events more tolerable. Holiday rituals that included the child's loved ones could be altered and new rituals developed.
Mother’s and Father’s Day can be particularly difficult for a child who has lost a parent. He'she may choose a “substitute mother” to take to a Mother’s Day celebration, for example. They also may choose to commemorate their loss by visiting the cemetery or visiting a special place where they have positive memories of their parent.
As the first anniversary of the death approaches, children often find themselves reliving very intensely the last days of their loved one’s life. Children often need extra reassurance and support during this anniversary. It is also important that the adults in their life share their own feelings about the anniversary and memories about the deceased.
Children often choose to celebrate the birthday of their deceased loved one. They might make a birthday gift for their deceased loved one, or bake a cake and light birthday candles. The celebration could include sharing memories about past birthdays with their loved one. A visit to the cemetery might be a special way to allow a child to say happy birthday to their deceased loved one. Other holidays could be commemorated in the same way--by giving gifts, sharing memories of the deceased and developing special rituals.