As we approach the festive season, it’s essential to acknowledge the unique challenges that grieving children and young people may face during this time. Christmas and other festive celebrations are often synonymous with joy and family gatherings, but for those dealing with loss, this time can magnify the feelings of longing, hurt, isolation, and confusion.

As Grief Encounter, we see first-hand the impact that the Christmas break can have on children and young people. From the break in routine, the closure of schools and colleges, access to trusted teachers and friends to the emphasis on happiness and the pressures to be ‘joyful’. It’s crucial for parents, caregivers, and support networks to recognise signs of grief in children and young people and provide the necessary support if they are concerned.

It can be challenging for children to experience the duality of wanting to experience holiday festivities whilst feeling the absence of their special person in everything they do. It can be confusing and overwhelming for them to swing so heavily from one emotion to the next. As a result, their grief may manifest in various ways, from changes in behaviour to heightened emotional responses.

One of the primary challenges we see at Grief Encounter is the isolation that grieving children and young people may experience. As friends and relatives get together for traditional gatherings and events, those who are grieving may feel disconnected and misunderstood. It’s essential for adults to create a safe space for open communication, allowing children to express their feelings without judgment. This can be a gentle conversation opener at bedtime to ask how they are feeling, or a ‘daily check in’ every morning to make sure they are comfortable with that day’s plan. Sometimes, it’s ok to leave it in their court – let young people know you are there when they are ready to talk, and you are always available.

During the festive season, our role at Grief Encounter becomes increasingly significant. We emphasise the importance of continuing bonds and establishing rituals that can honour the memory of the loved one, providing a more tangible way for children to feel connected. We also encourage creative expression, such as art or journaling, which can be therapeutic for processing more complex emotions.

Moreover, our support services are targeted towards making connections. We host group sessions and workshops, and family fun days, where children can share their experiences with others who understand the unique challenges they face. This also can reduce the isolation children and young people can so often feel after the death of someone close.

By acknowledging the feelings children and young people are experiencing, providing support, and fostering an environment of understanding, we can help them find hope and healing during a time that may otherwise be overwhelming. At Grief Encounter we ensure that no child or young person is left to grieve along. If you are looking for professional support, you can refer here or contact our helpline on 0808 802 0111, weekdays 9am – 9pm. Our webchat service is also available via our website and is free and confidential.