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Multi-Generation Family Celebrating Christmas At Home With Grandfather Serving Turkey

Gratitude and Grief During the Holidays

With the holidays upon us and the festivities and family gatherings beginning, there is a sense of gratitude for all that we have. I am particularly grateful for all the special moments shared between friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family members. I enjoy the holiday lunches, cookie exchanges with co-workers, the craft making and baking with grandchildren, the school holiday concerts, and decorations adorning the neighborhood.

However, during this time of year we need to make room for grief, too. Grief and gratitude can be present at the same time. As parents and grandparents, many of us feel a nostalgia for the holidays of the past and the people who are no longer a presence in the planning or parties. People may feel geographically isolated or separated by the death of a loved one or a cherished pet during the holidays.

Grief is a normal emotion that we, and our children, can be particularly aware of during times of celebration. It is interesting how that works. We wish we could share the celebration with the ones we miss. Grief is the longing for something or someone we no longer have. The holidays or other milestones can often remind us of our loss.

When we normalize grief and sadness by talking about something or someone we miss, it does not spoil the holiday spirit. Sharing and expressing emotions teaches meaning and increases positive coping.

Here are some ways we can share those tenderhearted moments and teach our children and grandchildren to have gratitude and to grieve well.

  • Tell your children stories about the “good old holidays.” What is the best gift you ever received? Share the excitement of a first snow, a tradition of cutting down a tree, or buying gifts for the less fortunate.
  • Teach your children a traditional family recipe or make up one of your own and name it after your current family. Make the dish and share it with a neighbor or friend.
  • If you decorate, look through ornaments and think about the origin of each item.
  • Create cards or send messages and pictures to a relative or friend living far away.
  • As a family, make a gratitude list or a list of meaningful memories from past holidays. Make a list of holiday adventures you would like to have in the future.
  • Watch holiday movies and read books together.
  • While tucking your young child into bed or saying goodnight to an older child, be sure to mention everything that you appreciate about them.

My granddaughter told me the other day, “The best part of the holidays is being with family.”

I have to agree, and I am grateful for my time with her and the memories that she will have in the not-so distant future. I am also happy that she wants to share my holiday nostalgia about “The good old days.”

For more parenting information, visit CHKD.org/ParentingResources.



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About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.

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