Supporting our children through loss

By Judie Coutts – This is Judie’s first year as a volunteer on the Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). She is a mother of two daughters and parents with her husband Craig. Her youngest is a Grade 10 student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute and her eldest recently graduated Grade 12 IB and is presently at Queens University seeking a degree in Concurrent Education. 


Judie Coutts

Judie Coutts

Family and togetherness are common themes as we approach the festive season in December. In my family, we celebrate the holidays with close relatives who often travel to come see us, joining in with many friends. We are found chatting, laughing and reminiscing over tables full of dishes that include cherished family recipes and experimental dishes that explore how to hide the brussel sprouts. Laughter and special moments fill the month as we catch up with each other on life’s challenges and gifts. My children have known holidays filled with many generations, however, as they continue to grow, we find the generations take on new additions and with sadness, some loss of the elders amongst us.

Whether you celebrate around a tree, light candles or enjoy the company of others over special meals, each of us is heightened to the festivities which are around us. The holiday season, and expectations of traditions, can make it difficult for those amongst us who are suffering from separation or a loss of a loved one. The loss can be recent or from a long time ago, and may take the form of missing a family member, a homeland or important traditions. Often all that is needed is a small trigger to bring back floods of memories from a different time. Coping with loss is a reality to many in our community.

Children react no differently to loss and often take their cues for coping from those around them. They watch the grown-ups to see what we do in our culture, family and community. Do we carry on? Do we discuss the loved ones no longer with us? Do we embrace our new country and try a new tradition? Do we remember special traditions from our native countries? Each decision is unique and family driven.

Supporting those dealing with loss and grief requires patience, time and space to share emotions, thoughts and memories. Loss and grieving is a normal response to sad and often overwhelming situations.

For those who are grieving, coping with the holidays is no small task. These suggestions from the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) may help to provide support to those around us.

Be with those who comfort you

Your child will turn to you for direction and comfort. Trying to ignore the absence of a loved one can make them feel alone and depressed. Simply acknowledging the loss can be healing. Listen to the stories and allow space for emotions to be shared.

Acknowledge and accept your feelings

The holidays can magnify our feelings of loneliness, bitterness, anger, frustration and depression. Explain to your kids how you are feeling and that they don’t need to feel pressured to be joyful and celebrate; However, don’t feel guilty if you do enjoy yourself, grace is a wonderful gift over the holidays.

Eliminate unnecessary stress

Don’t do anything that is too uncomfortable for you or your kids. If you don’t feel like putting up decorations, buying presents, going to church, synagogue, mosque, then don’t do it. Keeping busy only increases stress and postpones working through grief. Lower your expectations for the holidays and remind your family members to simply do what they can, when they can.

Finally, as we gather over the holidays, remember to take the time to be a family. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Where there is love, there is life.

From my family to yours, we wish you peace.

-Judie Coutts

Parent Posts are written by parents, for parents in collaboration with PIC. This series features guest parent bloggers where they share resources and information with other parents. We invite you to email and let us know if there are other topics you’d like to learn more about on Parent Posts.

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