The holiday season is traditionally a time for joy, celebration, and togetherness. However, for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, this time of year can be particularly challenging.
Memories may serve as a constant reminder of a loss, and some families may experience heightened stress and sadness. Feelings of grief may be rekindled as children reminisce about previous memories or as they create new ones.
There are special ways in which you can remember a loved one during this time and share in connection as a family. The following ways may be helpful:
1. Create a Memory Corner
Set up a dedicated space in your home with photos, mementos and items that remind you of your loved one. Encourage family members to contribute their own memories, creating a shared tribute.
2. Light a Memorial Candle
Light a candle in memory of your loved one during the holiday gatherings. This simple act can serve as a powerful symbol of remembrance and bring a sense of connection for your family.
3. Incorporate Traditions
Incorporate your loved one’s favourite holiday traditions into your celebrations. Whether it is a special recipe, a favourite activity, or a cherished decoration, these elements can serve as a comforting link to your loved one.
4. Write a Letter
Write a letter to your loved one expressing your feelings and updating them on your life. You could also encourage family members to write down their favourite holiday season memories of your loved one, creating a beautiful keepsake.
5. Give Back in Their Name
Consider making a charitable donation or volunteering in honour of your loved one. This act of kindness not only honours their memory but also contributes positively to the community.
Here are specific tips for grieving kids:
1. Open Communication
Encourage open conversations about feelings during this time. Provide children with a safe space to express their emotions and ask questions, fostering an environment of understanding and support.
2. Create a Memory Box
Help children create a memory box filled with items that remind them of their loved one. This tangible collection can serve as a source of comfort during difficult times. Click here for specific instructions for this activity.
3. Include them in Rituals
Involve kids in creating and participating in holiday rituals that honour the memory of their loved one. Active participation can help them feel connected and included.
4. Establish New Traditions
While preserving existing traditions is important, consider establishing new ones together that are specifically designed to celebrate and remember the person who has died. This can provide a sense of continuity and growth.
Navigating grief during the holiday season is undoubtedly challenging, but finding meaningful ways to remember and honour your loved one can bring a sense of comfort and connection.
Our community has also shared some ways that they remember their loved one during the holiday season and Christmas time. Click here to download their tips.
If you need help guiding your grieving kids through Christmas, click here for tips to prepare grieving kids for the holiday season.
Also, self-care for parents is important during the holiday season so click here to read our guide to help you.
Whilst the holiday season can be a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness for some people, this time of year can also bring a unique set of challenges and emotions for grieving children and their families.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one increases the complexity of the holiday season, as children may find themselves grappling with increased responsibilities amidst the festivities.
There are several added burdens that grieving children may feel during the holiday season, however families and communities can support them through this challenging time. Additional challenges can include:
The holiday season can exacerbate the emotional strain that grieving kids already experience. This time of year often means an increased frequency of family gatherings and traditions, serving as a stark reminder of the absence of a loved one. The real or perceived pressure to maintain a facade of normalcy and participate in festive activities may also contribute to heightened stress and anxiety that children can feel.
Asking your child what they feel comfortable doing this holiday season is a helpful way to provide them with a sense of psychological safety. By giving your child the autonomy to make decisions around their participation in festive activities, you can decrease the stress and anxiety they might feel during this time.
Assuming Adults Roles
In the absence of a parent or guardian, grieving children may find themselves taking on roles traditionally held by adults. This could involve helping with meal preparations, managing household chores, or even providing emotional support to other family members. Such responsibilities can be overwhelming and emotionally draining.
A helpful way to manage this is to assign specific tasks to each family member. Breaking up the responsibilities can be done in a fun and exciting way, such as using visuals and sticker charts. It is also important to accept help from others if it is offered. Some children may also benefit from a family conversation addressing the reality that Christmas may look a bit different this year and it is okay to change traditions or customs.
Navigating Family Dynamics
Grieving families often undergo shifts in dynamics as they adapt to the loss. At Christmas, children may feel an increased sense of responsibility to keep the family together or mediate conflicts, adding an extra layer of stress to an already emotionally heightened environment.
Encourage your child to express their emotions openly and let them know it is okay to feel sad, angry, or confused during this time. It is helpful to set realistic expectations and help them manage their expectations around this time of year.
Holidays are often steeped in tradition, and grieving children may feel a keen responsibility to uphold these rituals in memory of their loved one that died. The pressure to continue traditions can be emotionally taxing, as children grapple with the desire to honour the past while coping with the reality of the present.
Help your child understand that traditions may change, at least temporarily. Support them in being flexible and open to creating new rituals that accommodate your family’s current needs.
The holiday season can be an emotionally difficult time for grieving children, particularly as they navigate increased responsibilities amidst the festivities. It is crucial for families, friends, and communities to recognise and address these challenges, offering support and understanding.
By fostering open communication, acknowledging the unique struggles of grieving children, and creating space for both remembrance and healing, we can help them navigate the holiday season with compassion and resilience.
If you need help guiding your grieving kids through Christmas – click here for tips to prepare grieving kids for the holiday season.
Also, self-care for parents is important during the holiday season – click here to read our guide to help you.
In Australia 1-in-20 children will lose a parent before they reach the age of 18. Every family that is struggling with grief deserves support, and together we can make a difference!
Walk or run 120km for grieving kids and their families, or start by aiming to raise a goal of $120. Together we can fund camps, research, and build on resources to help grieving kids across Australia.
By completing the 1-in-20 Challenge not only will you help grieving kids heal, but you and your family can gain from the health and wellbeing benefits of the challenge.
Benefits of Exercise in Adults and Children:
Improved mood state – Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins. These hormones can help our mood and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
Lower levels of stress – Engaging in physical activity can lead to a sense of relaxation and calmness, helping to alleviate stress and tension.
Boost in self-esteem – Exercise can lead to a sense of accomplishment, which can contribute to an improvement in self-esteem and self-confidence.
Improved sleep – Regular physical activity can contribute to better sleep quality for children and adults.
Distraction – Exercise can be a helpful distraction from negative thoughts and ruminations.
Social interaction – Participating in group physical activities can provide children and adults with opportunities to interact with others, develop friendships, and improve their social skills. These interactions can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, fostering a sense of belonging.
Emotional regulation – Physical activity provides a constructive outlet for negative feelings. Engaging in physical activity can teach children how to manage their emotions in a healthy way.
Cognitive benefits – Exercise has been shown to enhance cognitive function and brain health.
Interview with Serenity McEwin, Pediatric Occupational Therapist
If you aren’t already inspired to continue to take part, or sign up, one of our incredible Feel the Magic volunteers has provided us with expert knowledge on the benefits of the 1-in-20 Challenge.
Serenity McEwin is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist supporting children and young people to be as independent as possible with the things they need and want to be doing. Serenity has answered some of our questions about the benefits of the challenge from her professional perspective.
From your OT perspective, what are the general benefits of exercise?
Increases our physical health, mental health, and quality of life.
Increases neural connections in the brain and enhances communication between both sides of our brain which positively impacts our cognition, ability to learn, our behaviour, and our attention.
Regulates our sensory and nervous systems – movement can be calming or alerting.
Helps to develop the fine and gross motor skills needed for learning, play, and everyday life skills.
Can alleviate sleep-related problems.
From your OT perspective, what are the benefits of walking and talking for language development?
Walking and movement wakes our brain up. Neuroscience shows us that movement improves the brains cognitive regulation skills, that is, the ability to focus, think clearly and logically, plan, organise, create and be empathetic. Therefore, we can expect the quality of our conversations during a walk to be greater.
A walk and talk is an opportunity for back-and-forth conversation, which activates the part of our brain responsible for language production and processing.
During a walk, parents can model and facilitate asking questions, making comments, and expanding on words and ideas.
Why is the 1-in-20 Challenge beneficial for grieving kids?
Research shows us that taking a sideways approach to talking with our kids (conversing while engaged in an activity, where eye contact is optional) helps them to feel more comfortable and relaxed, which leads to more open communication.
In terms of walking and talking, exercise releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, and positive social connection releases oxytocin, all of which are feel good chemicals that promote feelings of happiness and wellbeing. These feel-good chemicals give us the power to regulate our emotional responses and relieve discomfort.
Walking also provides an escape from grief through distraction – and even better if out in nature, which is shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol.
Why are family activities beneficial from your perspective?
Family group activities help us to feel seen, heard and valued – they increase our sense of connection to our caregivers and/or siblings. The more connected we feel to others, the less likely we will respond with maladaptive behaviours when times get tough, and the more likely we are to bounce back after hardship.
Connection also supports us to develop social skills so that we can increase connections outside of our family, a factor which is strongly linked to wellbeing.
Benefits of exercising as a family:
One of the greatest benefits of this challenge is the social interaction that it facilitates for grieving families. Whether you undertake this challenge as a family, with friends, or with other grieving families in the Feel the Magic community, exercising with others can have numerous benefits that extend beyond our physical health.
Some of the benefits of exercising as a family include:
Quality time – Exercising together allows for dedicated quality time, away from screens and daily distractions.
Role modelling – A parent/guardian who prioritises exercise sets a positive example for children.
Positive memories – Shared physical activities can create positive associations with exercise for children.
Teamwork and cooperation – Exercising as a family can foster stronger family bonds through teamwork and cooperation.
Communication – Exercising together provides opportunities for open communication, allowing family members to share thoughts and connect.
Social interaction – Exercising with others enhances interpersonal skills and strengthens relationships.
Now that you know the benefits of participating in the 1-in-20 Challenge, it’s not too late to join if you haven’t signed up yet. Here is how you can take part:
Father’s Day can be a difficult day for many children grieving the death of their dad or a significant male in their life.
Many people struggle to know what to say to a grieving child. It is through the fear of saying the wrong thing, they often say nothing at all, leaving the child feeling even more isolated and alone.
You may be wondering what the best way is to support grieving children during difficult times. The following tips may be useful this Father’s Day:
A reminder that Father’s Day is coming up is a helpful way to begin the conversation around what they want to do for it.
It is important to not assume you know what they will want. What they did last year might be exactly what they want to do again – or they might want to do something completely different. Similarly, some families may like to revisit old traditions, whereas others may like to invent something new for Father’s Day.
By simply taking the time to let a grieving child know that you are there and thinking of them, shows them that they are not alone this Father’s Day.
Grieving children often feel isolated from their friends and community. Others around them may not have experienced bereavement and loss like they have. They can feel detached and alone, especially on significant days like Father’s Day.
Consider different ways to express their feelings
If children don’t want to talk about their grief verbally, conversation and connection can be through drawing, craft, dance, poetry, play, images, and text messages.
Offer your child to write in a journal throughout the day. You might also want to offer your child a forum to connect with other family or friends who knew the loved one and share their memories of them
Father’s Day is an occasion that can bring powerful feelings to the surface. Some of these feelings might be isolation, anger, jealousy, and sadness. Some grieving kids might want to talk about their feelings, whilst others might try to express how they’re feeling through their behaviour.
It is important to listen to them and show them that what they are feeling is valid and completely normal. You might want to give your child ‘permission’ to not be okay, freeing them from expectations. Click here to read our blog on Managing Big Feelings this Father’s Day for more tips.
We asked grieving kids from our Feel the Magic community to share what they would like their friends and family to say to them on Father’s Day. Here is what they said.
If you are supporting a bereaved child or know one, there is help available and a community that understands what you are going through.
Our mission at Feel the Magic is to ensure grieving kids, families, and their friends have the support and resources to help them feel and heal through their grief.
If you would like to consider a donation this Father’s Day, please click here.
“Father’s Day is a good day to me, I get to focus on Dad that day. Having him on my mindmakes me feel better.In the lead-up to Father’s Day it can be scary, but on an actual day it’s usually really nice. I can feel him around me. I’m going to remember him by visiting a place in the Mountains we liked to go to. It’s a special place for us. To anyone else who has lost their dad, my advice is to use it as a way to dedicate a whole day to the person you love. Keep them on your mind and do things in memory of them.”
Experiencing anxious thoughts and feelings following a bereavement is both common, and to be expected. Significant days like Father’s Day can also bring up big feelings.
Grief can make a child or adolescent feel that they have lost their sense of safety and control in life. Shock, longing, anger, guilt, sadness and anxiety are some of the big feelings that children and teens may experience when a loved one dies. Some of these big feelings may also resurface on Father’s Day.
The following ways might help manage big feelings this Father’s Day:
Talk about those big feelings
Often anxious and difficult thoughts occur when there is something left unsaid or questions that need to be answered. Increased anxiety can also occur when children avoid thinking or talking about their bereavement or loved one.
It is crucial to encourage your child to open up to someone they can trust. Sharing emotions is an important part of the grieving process. If they find it hard to talk about their feelings, perhaps they could write them down or express them through art instead.
Healthy eating, exercise and sleep
Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and having a good sleep routine are all important ways to help children function at their best.
If you find that your child is struggling with sleep due to feeling anxious or overwhelmed by their grief, try a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, doing a Hand on Heart meditation, or reading a book before bed.
The 54321 technique
If your child is feeling anxious, teach them the 5 4 3 2 1technique. This grounding exercise encourages them to notice what is around them by naming:
5 things you can see (e.g., window, car)
4 things you can feel (e.g., shoes on my feet, the chair on my back)
3 things you can hear (e.g., the rain, someone talking)
2 things you can smell(e.g., dinner cooking)
1 thing that helps you can taste
This technique can help to calm your child’s anxious thoughts by bringing them back to what is around them in the moment.
A helpful sentence
The most effective time to teach your child helpful strategies to deal with big feelings associated with their grief is when they are already feeling calm and regulated.
Before Father’s Day help your child to think of a helpful sentence, such as “I will be okay, I have been okay before, and I will be okay now”. When your child notices that they are becoming anxious encourage them to say their sentence out loud. They should try and repeat this sentence, not just at times of heightened anxiety, but when they are feeling calm so they can solidify it and can access it more easily when they are feeling worried.
Remember that whilst big feelings and emotions are a normal part of the grieving process, if you feel that your child’s life is significantly impacted to the point where they find it hard to do their usual day-to-day activities, then it is important to reach out and seek professional help and support. Here is a link to our recommended organisations and support services.
“My 3 kids lost their father 18 months ago, so we are coming up to their second Father’s Day without their Dad. It was a really tricky time leading up to the day, especially for my youngest who was still in Primary school. The focus around Father’s Day at Primary school with Father’s Day craft and the school Father’s Day store, was really hard for her to navigate. Keeping up the communication with her class teacher helped as she was aware of the sensitivity around Father’s Day and made adjustments for her at school to ensure she felt supported.
I really try to follow the kid’s lead for Father’s Day and ask them how they would like to remember their dad on the day. Last year we spent the day together at a special place that they liked to go to with their dad. Just having that time together where we can remember him, talk about happy memories, and be present for each other is really important in keeping us connected”. Camper parent (Mum), Katrina
The 9th Night of Magic Winter Wonderland Gala dinner transported guests into a realm of enchantment while creating a meaningful impact.
A sincere thanks to everyone there. The atmosphere was incredible and we hope you walked away feeling inspired. We sure did.
Raising money to send kids to Camp Magic
Your company and kindness at this extraordinary event raised over $150k for grieving kids and families to attend camps and programs, providing them with support and a community during their grief journey.
We are still open for donations if you’d like to help us edge closer to our goal of raising $225,000.
If you are inspired to help, please click on the link and donate, or share with others who could also support Feel the Magic – great timing with tax time just around the corner! All donations over $2 are tax-deductible.
From all of us at Feel the Magic, and the many families we support, we say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone at Night of Magic – our Masters of Ceremonies Dimity Clancy and Hayley Kime, event partners, donors, volunteers and supporters for helping us do what we do to serve our community.
Our Winter Wonderland Night of Magic gala dinner would not be possible without the support of our sponsors and partners. Thank you to Shaw and Partners Financial Services, WIM Resources, Alceon, ForteIS, Metway Developments, Metro Solutions, Southern Steel, Alpin, Kelly & Partners Chartered Accountants, Acumen Strata, St George Bank, Doltone House, Batch Brewing Co, Southtrade International, From Sunday and Icons of Sport.
Thank you to those who generously donated the many auction and raffle prizes. From unique experiences to getaways, gift packs, sporting memorabilia, and much more, we had a raft of amazing items and prizes on offer during the evening.
To our amazing and giving volunteers, we are so incredibly grateful for your support at Night of Magic, at every Camp and fundraising event. You continue to inspire us. You all took time out of your day and evening to make our Winter Wonderland possible. A heartfelt thank you. Feel the Magic would not be possible without you.
A special thank you goes to our Night of Magic committee for their time and energy to help make the night a success. Thank you, Adam Blatch, Kristy Thomas, Sean Preece, Kevin Smaller, Felicity Thomas, Harriet Gerrard, Tricia Gerigk and Sarah Askew.
We acknowledge our Mission Partner the Saunders Family Foundation for their continued support for Feel the Magic. From the very beginning, their support has funded numerous Camp Magic programs and fundraising events. Monica and Betty have continued the proud Saunders family legacy of supporting those in need.
We could not be more grateful and appreciative of their continued and impactful support. Thank you for your belief and support in the Feel the Magic vision.