Christmas after a marriage separation: How to help kids deal with loss

Posted in Parenting.
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Christmas can be especially hard for families dealing with loss.

Whether you’re going through a marriage separation, or you’ve lost someone dear to you within the year, Christmas makes everything more poignant.

As psychologist Karen Young of Hey Sigmund told Kinderling Conversation, when you have children, the most important thing is to consider their perspective.

Listen to Kinderling Conversation:

Christmas after marriage separation  

Children need to feel like they have access to both parents on Christmas.

“You don’t want to put them in a position where they have to choose – so they get their time with each parent,” says Karen.

“Even young kids get stuck in a loyalty bind, where they feel they can’t contact the absent parent, in case the parent they are with feels like they don’t want them as much.”

The first Christmas after someone has passed away

When the loss is permanent, it’s good to ask your kids what they’d like to do to remember the special person.

“Get them to think what they think grandma/uncle/family member would like them to do on Christmas to make her feel loved,” says Karen.

“If you have really little kids, you could ask your kids if they’d like to do her favourite thing, or buy a special decoration for the tree, or write a little note and put it into a balloon and send it into the sky.”

By the same token, if the loss is relatively new, the kids might still feel a bit raw about it and that’s okay too.

“If that’s the case, it’s okay if you don’t want to go into it too much,” says Karen. 


Read more about loss:


Keeping your own emotions in check

When you’re feeling sad about the loss, it’s okay for parents to take a break to feel what they need to feel.

“There will be an overriding sense of loss but that fierce feeling will come and go relatively quickly. If you let it come, it will pass quickly. You won’t feel better quickly, but it will pass. Do whatever you need to do to be okay,” says Karen.

If your kids are coping really well, it’s best to leave your own feelings at the door and go call a friend to chat through what you’re feeling.

“But if you’re all feeling sad, you don’t have to pretend that everything is okay all the time,” says Karen.

“You can say something like it’s different this Christmas without mummy/daddy/grandma … I miss us all being together too and it’s okay because we will do different things together.”

Go easy on yourself

As hard as it feels right now, Karen recommends telling yourself that Christmas is just one day:

“At this time of year with all the hype it can feel like a month-long process. You just need to get through it, one minute and one hour at a time. It will be over and then next year it will be better.”

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