Grief and Bereavement

Tips for Supporting Grieving Children & Youth During the Holiday Season

Holidays that are typically times of celebration can be very difficult for a grieving family.  The empty space left by someone who has died may feel bigger and deeper. Common greetings such as “Happy Holidays” can feel painful. Many families find the first year or two after the death to be particularly difficult.

Here are a few tips for supporting grieving children during the holidays.

Allow Children and Teens to Feel Whatever They Feel
Children and teens grieve differently than adults. This is also true during holidays.  Many parents are surprised by their children’s ability to find joy and excitement in the season even when a death is recent.  Let your children know that its okay to enjoy the holidays and have a good time while there are grieving.

Encourage your children to express whatever they’re feeling when those emotions arise.  Listen to them and don’t try to distract them from what they are feeling.

If you’re finding this time of year particularly difficult, let them know.  Reassure them you’re happy they are experiencing the joy of the season.

Holiday Traditions
When a death is recent, many adults wonder if they should continue with holiday traditions, change them entirely, or take a break from them for a year. It may help to remember that there’s no right or wrong way to spend the holidays.

Ask your children how they would like to spend this time. Are there traditions they’d like to keep? Should new ones be created to fit the change in their lives?

Do what’s right for you and your family.

It’s Okay to Say “No”
The holiday season is a time of many events and invitations. Include your children in deciding which events to attend. Don’t hesitate to decline invitations with “We’re just not up to it this year.”

Know that it’s okay to make plans then change them at the last minute.

Traditions of Remembering
Creating traditions to remember the person who died helps families with their grief. Choose some holiday activities that help your children express their grief and connect to the person who died in creative ways. These will be different for each family.

  • Make ornaments or decorations with photos of the person.
  • Put together a memory or photo book.
  • But a gift they would have liked and donate it or give it to someone.
  • Create a recipe book of the person’s favourite meals.
  • Participate in activities they enjoyed such as walks in nature or playing board games.

Honour the Person Who Died
There are many ways to maintain bonds to the person who died and keep their memory alive for your children. For example:

  • Light a candle in their honour.
  • Set a place for them at the holiday table.
  • Make their favourite holiday foods.
  • Share stories about them.
  • Make a toast to them at a meal or event.

Seek Out Help If You Need It
The Central Okanagan Hospice Association offers a diversity of support for children and youth who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Please click here to learn more.

If you need extra support this holiday season, please contact Ian Kunitski, Director of Programs and Services at 250.763.5511 or email

Help Make a Difference

There are many ways to get involved to help the dying, grieving and their loved ones in the Central Okanagan.