Christmas is a time for gathering together as a family and spending some quality time together, but it can often be bittersweet. If it's the first holiday season since a loved one has passed, the it can be a confusing and upsetting time, especially for children. Dealing with grief as a young child can throw up all sorts of emotions that they don't fully understand. Throw a special family gathering into the mix and they could be staring at the empty chair around the table, wondering why it isn't filled. Loss is never easy to navigate, but there are a few things you can do to help your little ones cope with the holidays.
Answer their questions. It can be hard to do, especially if you're suffering with your own grief, but children deserve honest answers to the hard questions. You don't need to go into bucket loads of painful detail, but simple, straightforward replies can help them come to terms with what has happened, and why that loved one isn't around the table this year.
Reassure them. If it's a grandparent that has passed away, then they may be worrying that their remaining grandparents may also pass on. Similarly, if they have lost a parent, then they might worry that the other parent may go, too. Reassure them that there's nothing to be worried about at this point in time, and they will always be loved and cared for.
Remember the loved one. Some families still lay places at the table for those that have moved on, so they can remember them. If this is too painful, then try lighting a candle in the window next to a beloved picture. Talk to your children about the good times and reminisce in the happy memories.
Stay strong. It may be easier said than done, but children often look to adults to see how they should cope. If they see you struggling to cope this holiday season, then it may add to the worry. There's nothing wrong with discussing how you feel with your children, but try and rally as much as you can for their sake. Let them know that you will get through it as a family, and while things change, it's just a part of life.