The holiday season is in full swing. Christmas carols ring through the malls, lights cast a glow on the streets at night, and stockings are hung waiting to be filled with goodies for little ones. I’ve always loved this time of year, but since the loss of my son five and a half years ago, it’s never been quite the same.

I still love this season but it’s now accompanied by a longing in my heart and a fear that my son will be forgotten in the celebration. While I enjoy watching the sheer joy on my other children’s faces, my heart also aches because someone is missing.

Over the years on my own healing journey and through helping others on theirs, I’ve realized that many people misunderstand grieving parents and while most want to be supportive, it’s hard to know just what to do.

A big thing to understand is that most grieving parents (I say most because everyone grieves differently and some grieving parents may not relate to this) want their children to be remembered.

While they know the world has continued to move forward, they have not. Or at least part of them has not.

Their child will always be just that. Their child. It’s no different than any other parent, except their child(ren) has passed on. They love them and want to include them. Want to make them feel special. They want to hear their names and know that they mattered to the world.

I know this may seem to observers as being “stuck” or “unhealthy”. But it’s not. It’s actually the opposite. By finding ways to include their child who is no longer here, they are finding a way to continue living while bringing their child with them.

The process of healing after loss involves finding ways to integrate the loss into your life. Honoring, remembering, and including their child(ren) in special events and daily life is a great way to do this. They’re saying “this is a part of my life, a very painful part that I wish was different, but a part none the less”.

So to friends and family of loved ones who have lost a child, here are eight ways to support them during this holiday season.

Gift Them Something In Memory Of Their Child: There are many remembrance items out there, such as jewelry, Christmas ornaments, personalized frames, etc. Find one that you think they’d like and surprise them with it this year.

Include Their Child In Your Holiday Card: One thing that often stings is getting or sending a card with their child’s name missing. By simply including their child’s name in your holiday card you are letting them know you haven’t forgotten.

Donate A Toy In Their Child’s Memory:  You can purchase a toy and donate it to a family in need. Often grieving families want to be able to gift a toy for a child who is the age their child would be. This can be a beautiful way to help another child while honoring a child who is missing.

Say Their Name: This goes a long way. Grieving parents love their child(ren) and want to talk about them just like any other parent. Our instinct can be to avoid this for fear of upsetting them. But trust me, they are already thinking about it and mentioning their child usually helps more than hurts.

Light A Candle In Their Child’s Honor: A lite candle can be a great way to represent those who are missing for a celebration. If you won’t see the parents on the actual holiday, you can light a candle and send them a picture telling them you are thinking of them and their child.

Let Them Be Sad: Don’t pressure them to “get over it” or expect them not to be sad. They should have a child here to spoil on Christmas Day. This will always be painful, no matter how much time has passed.

Don’t Assume They’re Okay Just Because They Look Okay:  They say time heals grief but what it really does is change it. Over time we can become more accustom to dealing with it, which may mean we can enjoy holidays without crying the whole time. But, that doesn’t mean we’re not also sad and that our child is not in the back (or front) of our minds.

Ask How Their Doing: Simply asking how they’re doing this holiday season and acknowledging that it’s most likely difficult can go a long way. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Shoot them a text or an email letting them know you’re thinking of them.

Grief is tricky, especially during the holidays. If you’re not sure how to support your loved one and you’re not sure these things fit, don’t be afraid to ask. Let them know you want to support them but you don’t know how. The fact that you are thinking about them and their child will be an irreplaceable gift.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

15 thoughts on “8 Ways To Support A Loved One Grieving A Child This Holiday Season”

  1. Anita Lyons says:

    I love the way you remember and honor Molly.

  2. Trudy says:

    I still miss my daughter and the twin I had with her but it hurts more with my daughter because I had her for 38 years I didn’t hold my still born baby boy because I had his sister to keep me busy,two years later I lost a baby girl at five months along so I do know how hard it is to lose a child,it’s been years but I still think of them

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      I’m so sorry for your losses. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope this holiday season is gentle on you. I’ll keep you and your children in my heart.

  3. Thank you for writing this helpful article, so valuable for us who are supporting others in their loss. It’s not easy to know what to do or say but it is best as you say not to be afraid to ask.

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      Thank you for reading it. I’m so glad to hear it was helpful.

  4. L Bogan says:

    This article was very helpful to me. I lost my son almost 2 months ago, and it’s just becoming a reality for me. The article was a blessing to me, because I’ve struggled with grieving such as trying to be strong and not cry. I try to stay busy so that I don’t keep pondering on questions of why? I keep telling myself that God knows what’s best, but the questions are still there.

    The article has freed me in the sense of knowing that it’s ok to feel this way, and what I’m feeling is natural.

    I don’t think that I would ever forget my son, because I still see his face and I can still hear his voice daily.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I’m glad you found this article helpful. This journey is so painful and something no parent should have to endure. Your feelings are normal and you’re not alone. Even though he’s not here, he will always be your son. I will keep you in my thoughts.

  5. Kate says:

    My first Christmas without my beautiful daughter, Hope. She was with me for 21 years. I miss her every minute of every day. Thank you for this article. It means so much to know people understand. X

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. I hope this holiday is as gentle as it can be. I will keep you and your daughter in my thoughts.

  6. Tania Beer says:

    3 years for me without my daughter on 27 December I miss her so very much. It’s still hard and always will be. Thinking of you all at this time of year because it hurts so much❤️

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      It is such a hard journey. I wish that no parent would have to endure this. I am so very sorry for the loss of your daughter. I’ll keep you and your daughter in my thoughts.

  7. Bonnie Perkins says:

    My daughter died 49 yrs ago at 16 months & I still miss her every day & Christmas is especially sad for me. I still love to hear people talk about her & say her name. This is a loss you never get over completely. There is always a part of me missing. People who have not lost a child will never really understand. I love these ideas to remember the child.

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      Thank you for reading it. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. Keeping you in my thoughts.

  8. Chanelle says:

    It’s been 3 months since I lost my baby girl at 40 weeks, 3 days. It seems everyone else has moved on. This article is definitely helpful to let me know my feelings are okay and for those supporting us to know how to show they remember our baby because we will never forget. Just today I struggled with pulling myself together to go to the grocery store. I will be lighting a candle for my baby to bring all Christmas day. Also, had a stocking and ornament made for her. I miss and long for her so much.

    1. Kelly Cote says:

      I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. I’m glad to hear this article was helpful. I will keep you and your daughter in my thoughts.

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