Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Q. My husband died this past year after a brief illness. Until recently I thought my kids were handling their loss OK. Since Thanksgiving, however, each child has shown signs of grieving but none of them talk much about their Dad or about how they feel. 

Now I’m dreading the Holidays. How should I handle things so we won't be sad throughout December? What can I do to help the kids enjoy Christmas? I knew it would take time to recover and to grieve but when does it end?

A. Grieving is intensified during holidays, birthdays and anniversaries because of the memories from the past that involve the person we’ve lost. This is especially true the first Christmas after a loss. Christmas is a family time and a time when we enjoy being together. The absence of Dad accentuates the loss.
Grief is a process. It takes time to work through all the feelings involved in the loss of a primary relationship. We cannot just grieve for two weeks or even for six weeks. For most people it takes at least two years to grieve a major loss. 

This doesn’t mean you must be sad every day for two years. The sadness and depression of grief are cyclical. They come and go. It would be too painful to experience all the feelings at once. The stages of grieving - denial, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance allow us to work through our feelings little by little. We may move back and forth between these stages, each time resolving a bit more.
Your children are working through their grief each in their own way. This Christmas can be an important time for them to experience more of the depth of their loss and it can be a time to let go; to recognize that their father really is gone.
Talk with the children together and individually about Christmas. Listen carefully to how they’re feeling and what they would like to do both to remember and honor their Dad and to enjoy Christmas. Tell them it’s OK to enjoy Christmas; that their Dad would want them to do so. 
Don’t worry too much about avoiding grief or about making the day happy. While it’s OK to be happy in spite of your loss, it’s more important to allow yourself to feel your grief. It’s more important to be real than to pretend. You can model this to your children, letting them see some of your sadness while not overwhelming them with your feelings.
Plan one special time during the holidays in which you talk together about your loss.  Each of you might write a Christmas letter to your husband. Younger children could draw him a picture. Then share these with each other. A candle could be lit in his memory and all could share a favorite memory of him as you laugh and cry together.
You and the children don’t have to go through your grief alone. Take your children to a group for grieving children. There are a number of grief support groups available for children in various locations around the country. These grief support groups are child friendly, divided by age, with knowledgeable and caring leaders. Crafts and games encourage children to express their feelings about their loss. A concurrent parent’s group may also be available. A grief support group will help you and the children understand and express grief in a safe environment with the support of others. Then your future Christmases will be brighter.

If you and your family are Christians, your faith in life after death can also help you and the children work through your grief. As Christians you believe God had a good reason for taking him and you know you will see him again.

“I am the resurrection and the life, anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Blessings, Dottie

See also Be The Miracle

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