Remember a loved one

How to Prepare Your Grieving Kids for the Holiday Season

Whilst the holiday season is usually a time of joy and celebration, for many grieving kids and teens it can be a time of sadness and loneliness. 

The holiday season comes with high expectations, such as family commitments and large celebrations at home and school. Grieving children often experience these ‘hallmark’ moments differently to others, and this can cause difficult feelings and emotions. For those who have lost a loved one, the holiday season can also intensify feelings of grief and sadness. 

The first Christmas or holiday season without a loved one may also be particularly challenging for children and teenagers. Similarly, Christmas and holiday seasons later in bereavement can also be challenging as children move into different life stages or take on new roles in family celebrations. 

Below are some tips that may help support your grieving child during the festive season. 

1. Balance new and old traditions  

The holiday season often comes with established traditions and rituals. Some families may want to continue their existing traditions, whereas others may want to change them, just as their ‘normal’ has now changed. 

Remind your child that the holiday season does not need to be perfect or the same as last year. Explain to them that as families grow, traditions and rituals often change. Make sure they understand that there is no “right way” to celebrate the holidays and whatever you choose this year can always change next year. Include them in decision making and ask all family members to contribute their thoughts on keeping traditions and/or establishing new ones. 

2. Provide consistency amongst the chaos

Research shows that stable routines and consistency in the environment are important for supporting the psychological safety of bereaved children and young people. However, the holiday season is often a busy time, with guests staying over or activities at unusual times of the day. 

Where possible, maintain the child’s usual routines and structure. For example, if the child is staying at a family member’s house, consider bringing items from home such as their favourite toys or pillows. Similarly, if a child is staying up late watching festive movies, try to maintain the same bedtime routine/structure – just at a later time of the day. 

3. Set realistic expectations

Since everyone grieves differently, it is difficult to anticipate how your child may feel during the holiday period. Setting realistic expectations for how they might feel will normalise the fact that such a time may evoke powerful memories and feelings surrounding their lost loved one. 

Preparing your child that they are likely to experience grief reactions may help them understand that it is normal to feel sadness and grief, but it is also okay to feel happy too. Communicate to your child that they may need to take time to cry or express their feelings to someone they trust. Importantly, reassure them that they are not alone.  

4. Plan together

Letting your grieving child share what they would like to do is an opportunity to teach them the power of remembering. Planning with your child will give them a greater sense of control and may help ease anxiety leading up to this period. 

Your child may want to commemorate the holiday period with ongoing emotional connections with their lost loved one. Alternatively, your child may prefer to keep their memories to themselves and grieve privately, and that is okay too. 

There is no right or wrong way. When planning how you will spend the significant days, consider that it may be easier to leave someone else’s house than to ask people to leave yours. 

No two people will experience grief in the same way. You may find different family members may want to do different things during the holiday season. Being open and talking as a family can help to make plans that are sensitive to everyone’s wishes.  

5. Share holiday memories and stories

f possible, share holiday stories about the loved one that the child might not have heard before. For example, their favourite Christmas present from when they were little, or photos of their loved one at festive events. 

Research shows that talking with others who remember the deceased person is an important part of helping children and families maintain a connection with their loved one. Children and young people might also benefit from engaging in activities such as cooking their loved one’s favourite meal, or watching their favourite holiday movie, as another way to maintain this connection. 

6. Ask them how they would like to remember their loved during the holidays

Examples of ways to remember a loved one during the holidays include setting a place at the table or lighting a special candle. Your child may want to use a creative expression such as art, writing or music to remember their loved one. 

Follow us here and on socials for our soon-to-be-released guide for ideas and inspiration from our grief community about how to honour a loved one during the holiday season.

Plus, read our self-care tips for parents during the holiday season HERE.

Grieving during the holiday season can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, however it’s important to remember that you are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed, you should practice self-care and reach out to access additional grief support services

Feel the Magic offer support to help support you and your child through the difficult times following the death of a loved one. Click here to read further information on supporting children and teens through grief, anniversaries and significant events. 

If you would like to join a support network of other families who understand what you’re currently experiencing, you can join our grief community

Have more questions about what to say to a child when a parent dies or how to support a child through their grieving process? Please submit an enquiry and we will contact you as soon as possible. 

References: 

Boerner, K., & Heckhausen, J. (2003). To have and have not: adaptive bereavement by transforming mental ties to the deceased. Death studies, 27(3), 199–226. 

Schwab, R. (2004). Acts of remembrance, cherished possessions, and living memorials. Generations, 28, 26–30. 

Strike out suicide

Saving lives: One ‘boxing strike’ at a time

Sadly 8.6 Australians die every day from suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.

Strike Out suicide

The inaugural national Strike Out Suicide 14 day challenge starts soon on Monday 5 December and Feel the Magic is a proud and grateful beneficiary of the challenge.

Founded by former professional footballer and TV presenter Troy Gray – who was himself affected by suicide at the height of his sporting career – is making it his mission to unite people across Australia to Strike Out Suicide.

Media Release – Strike Out Suicide 2022

REGISTER NOW FOR THE NATIONAL STRIKE OUT SUICIDE

14-DAY CHALLENGE FROM 5 – 18 DECEMBER 2022

SAVING LIVES: ONE ‘BOXING STRIKE’ AT A TIME

8.6 Australians die every day by suicide.  That’s more than double the road toll.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.

The 14 day challenge starting on Monday 5 December 2022 is an annual campaign encouraging participants across Australia to complete daily boxing strikes to save lives, remove the stigma around mental health and inspire others through connection, hope, fitness, and fun.

Participants are invited to throw as many boxing strikes as they can during the two week fundraising period to bring awareness to the growing incidence of suicide; in addition to removing the stigma and educating the public.  Funds raised via this year’s Strike Out Suicide challenge will benefit the charity initiatives* supported by the Good Blokes Society – helping men to connect, and openly discuss their mental well-being.

A great way to spend the first two weeks of December, the Strike Out Suicide challenge will advance your fitness, improve your mood, reduce stress, and benefit your mental health.  Each participant will throw as many boxing strikes as they can daily during the fundraising period – no boxing experience or equipment is needed… and shadow boxing is fine!

Pick your challenge – how many strikes can you complete each day.

Track your progress – track your daily strikes and monitor your fundraising progress.

Make a difference – the more ‘strikes’ you throw, the more you and everyone you prospers.

Founded by former professional footballer and TV presenter Troy Gray – who was himself affected by suicide at the height of his sporting career – is making it his mission to unite people across Australia to Strike Out Suicide.

* The charity initiatives to benefit from Strike Out Suicide are Outside The Locker Room and Feel The Magic.  Outside the Locker Room is a registered charity providing mental health education and welfare support to sporting clubs, schools and workplaces across Australia.  Feel The Magic is an Australian charity providing early intervention grief education programs for kids aged 7 to 17, who are experiencing pain and isolation due to the death of a parent, guardian, or sibling.

Would you like a world without suicide?  We would.
Together we can save lives… Together, we can #StrikeOutSuicide

WATCH:  A personal video message from the Founder of Strike Out Suicide.

Accept the challenge and register now.

What to Say to a Child When a Parent Dies

The death of a parent is a very difficult situation for a child to face. Unfortunately, 1 in 20 Australian children will experience the death of a parent, and it is the responsibility of the adults in their lives to guide and support them through their grief. It’s hard to know what to say to a child when their parent dies.

Grief is an emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting process, so make sure you practice self-care. Although you may feel the need to be available to your child at all times, it’s important that you also look after yourself and your own grief. Here are some recommendations on how to approach the topic of death and what to say to a child when a parent dies.

How to tell a child their parent has died

Telling a child their parent has died will always be difficult. If you’re lost for words and don’t know what to say to a child when a parent dies, you’re not alone. Death is an uncomfortable topic for adults, so we often avoid discussing it with our children. However, delaying the news of their parent’s death or trying to soften your words will not help you child nor will it lessen their pain.

If you are in a position where you need to inform a child of their parent’s death, this is what you can do:

  • Create a safe space: You should choose a quiet space where you can talk without distractions. Include another adult if their presence will comfort your child or you.
  • Be prompt & honest: When approaching your child about the death of their parent, use care and be direct: “I need to tell you something important that will be hard to talk about. Dad died today.” Pause, give your child a moment to process this information, and answer the questions they ask you honestly. Use age-appropriate language when discussing the details of the death, if you have multiple children then start with the language appropriate for the youngest child.
  • Be straight-forward: Selecting the right words is important when deciding what to say to a child when a parent dies. Use words when talking about the death, like “died”, “death”, and “cancer”. Euphemisms like “passed away”, “not well”, and “went away” are too vague and can confuse children. They also might lead to your child jumping to wrong conclusions, like thinking everyone who is sick will die, or their parent will come back.
  • Establish open communication: Your child will have a lot of questions, and you may not know all the answers. This is ok, you just need to keep the lines of communication open so your child feels comfortable voicing their thoughts and feelings. Talk about your feelings and show that you are available to answer questions they have. Including your child in your grief and keeping them informed will help them feel more in control and secure in the knowledge that your family will get through this together.
  • Provide comfort: Children will react differently to the news their parent has died, some will cry, some will ask questions, some will get angry, and some may not seem to react at all. It is important that you remain close to your child during the conversation, reinforce that you are both safe, offer hugs, and highlight that they will be cared for and loved no matter what. Body language and non-verbal communication can be just as important as what you say to a child when their parent dies.
  • “You are not to blame”: Children tend to believe they cause things to happen by what they say or do, so you need to reassure them by emphasising that their parent’s death wasn’t caused by anything they said or did.
  • Discuss next steps: The death of a parent will inevitably change your child’s regular routine. Be clear about any new arrangements that have been made so your child can anticipate those changes, for example: “I will pick you up from school like Mum used to.”
  • Funerals & Memorials: You need to include your child in mourning rituals, like viewings, funerals, and memorials. Make sure you explain ahead of time what they should expect. Offer your child a role in the rituals as even a small role can help them take control of the emotional situation and give them a memory of being involved in the collective grief. Of course, you should let your child decide whether or not they would like to take part.

For more information on what to say to a child when a parent dies and how to parent your child through the initial stages of grief, visit our parenting resources hub, or download our brochures on parenting through immediate loss for children aged 7-9, 10-13, or 14-17.

How to support your child after the death of a parent

Once the funeral is over, normal life returns, but it is difficult because normal life for you and your child is different to what it was before the death. There is no easy or correct way to navigate these changes, but here are some ideas for you to consider:

Communication is vital

The death of a parent is traumatic for children, it can make them feel the world is no longer a safe place. They will have a lot of questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings, you need to make sure they feel comfortable expressing all of them to you. By listening intently and supportively, you can create a sense of safety and support for your child, which will be both reassuring and comforting to them.

You may not always have all the answers, and you may not always know the “right thing” to say to a child when a parent dies, but this isn’t what your child needs. Instead of going straight into problem-solving mode, you should feel with your child. Confronting and working through difficult emotions together will help your child learn to accept and manage them more effectively.

Maintain continuity

Try to maintain your child’s typical routine to the best of your ability, this includes their normal roles and responsibilities at home, in school, and in the community. They will wish to withdraw from these activities in the initial weeks after the death, this is understandable and you should give them this space, but re-engaging in these normal routines is important for your child’s health. It also allows them to move forward in their grieving process.

Physical and family connection

Give hugs! You and your child are going through a very lonely and trying time, hugs and cuddles will help both of you feel connected, and it will give your child a sense of safety and support. If you need some ideas on appropriate connection activities following the death of a parent, access our list of activities here. You can also seek support from family and friends to help look after your child following the death, this will reinforce to your child that they are surrounding by a loving support network and it will give you a break when your own grieving process becomes overwhelming.

Empower your child

When possible, give your child choices and respect their thoughts and decisions. They have opinions and they will feel valued when they’re given a voice in important matters. Leaving your child out of decisions regarding their parent’s memorialisation can hinder their grieving process.

Remember their parent

Keep pictures of their parent in the house, create a memory box with your child, go through rituals and remembrance activities – although it can be painful to be reminded of the person who has died, it’s important for you and your child to reflect on happy moments and fond memories. This will help you both process your emotions and will move you along in the grieving process.

Ultimately, what you want to do is create a safe and eventually happy environment for you and your child. For more information on what to say to a child when a parent dies and how to parent your child through the initial stages of grief, visit our parenting resources hub, or download our brochures on parenting in the first year after a death for children aged 7-9, 10-13, or 14-17.

Grief Services and Support

Although the death of your child’s parent can make you and your child feel lonely, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed, you should practice self-care and reach out to access additional grief support services.

Feel the Magic offers free camps to help support you and your child in the difficult time following the death of a parent. If you would like to join a support network of other families who understand what you’re currently experiencing, you should join our grief community. Have more questions about what to say to a child when a parent dies or how to support a child through their grieving process? Please submit an enquiry and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Melissa Wu Feel the Magic Ambassador

Melissa Wu joins Feel the Magic as Ambassador and 1-in-20 Challenger

Australian Olympic and World Champion medalist Melissa Wu joins Feel the Magic as Ambassador and takes on the 1-in-20 Challenge!

Melissa has faced many challenges throughout her life and career but none as tough as losing her younger sister Kirsten. Melissa experienced bereavement after her sister died 8 years ago. Melissa said “it something that never goes away, you just learn to live it with it, and it’s made me really value the things that are important in my life. I guess I just learnt how to make every day count”.

At a Feel the Magic Family Day Camp this year Melissa said, “I am here to help kids, share my story and hopefully they take away something from my journey.”

Melissa Wu Ambassador, Feel the Magic

We are proud and privileged to welcome Melissa to our FtM community and excited that Melissa will join us to raise money for grieving kids this October in the 1-in-20 Challenge.

If you would like to donate to Melissa’s 1-in-20 team, CLICK HERE.

What is the 1-in-20 Challenge?

The Challenge is to walk or run 120km this October to help fund Camps for the 1 in 20 kids left behind after the devastating loss of their Mum or Dad.

1-in-20 Challenge helps fund free camps for bereaved children

In a media statement released 15 September 2022, Adam Blatch, CEO, Feel the Magic said, “The 1-in-20 fundraising challenge is one of the most important events for Feel the Magic because, thanks to all the participants every year, we are able to run our highly successful and life changing camps for bereaved children – all free for families who need this support.

“It is through our Camps that kids are taught practical and healthy coping strategies to help them through their grief. Since we launched Camp Magic in 2015, Feel the Magic has helped grieving kids rebuild their confidence and self-respect through connecting with other kids just like them and finding a place where they feel safe to face, feel and heal in their grief. Raising $1,500 will sponsor a grieving child to go to Camp Magic and that’s an opportunity to change a kid’s life.

Camps can be life changing for kids and parents

Kelly Drover’s son, James has attended Camp Magic and Kelly herself has been a mentor to other grieving children at previous camps. Kelly says, “Feel the Magic will change your life and make you realise you’re not alone on this journey. You are part of a family who supports you and helps you to live with your grief. The biggest thing for him [James] was to be around other kids who just get it…[At camp] he was in this safe space with other kids that, even if it was unspoken, there was just this connection”.

Taking on the Challenge during October Mental Health Awareness Month

Adam Blatch further said, “October also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month which is a good reminder for all. Childhood bereavement can lead to a life-time of mental health challenges if not supported with programs and strategies like what we teach the kids at Camp. And we know how much exercise and fresh hair can help with mental health. I encourage people to sign up to the 1-in-20 challenge, do it for your own mental health as well as to help Feel the Magic on our journey and commitment to helping grieving children to reach their full potential without the devastating effects that childhood bereavement can have.”

Feel the Magic 1-in-20 challenge

The 1-in-20 Challenge is back!

We’re inviting you to join our 1-in-20 Challenge this October – its just the excuse to take a break, get active in the outdoors and support others in our community.

What Is The 1-in-20 Challenge?

The challenge is to walk or run 120km this October to help fund Camps for the 1 in 20 kids left behind after the devastating loss of their Mum or Dad.

In Australia, just over 300,000 children will lose a parent before they reach the age of 18. To put this into perspective, there is most likely a child grieving the loss of a parent in every class at school.

Based on these statistics, we all know a family struggling with grief. Those families deserve support and we’re here to help.

In fact, we can all help!

Walk or run 120km for grieving kid and families, or if 120km is more than challenge for you, start by aiming to raise just $1 for every km you walk or run, or set yourself a $120 goal… but the sky is the limit!

Last year some teams and individuals raised over $3,500!

Together, we can fund Camps, research and resources to help grieving kids heal – we’ll also give our own mental and physical health a boost by getting outside and getting active.

3 Easy Steps To Sign Up

Signing up is easy.

  1. Set up your profile as an individual or as a team and invite others to participate.
  2. Tell your colleagues, family and friends and ask for donations
  3. Feel good knowing every step your take will change the lives of grieving kids.

Plus, take these three easy steps to sign up before 1 October for your chance to win $500 worth of Havok Athletic activewear!

Sign up now! And the next time you feel like skipping that run or walk, you can push through, knowing you’re changing lives with every step.

Feel the Magic camper activity

Resources for Grieving Children

Grief is often overwhelming and can be hard to process no matter your age, which is why it’s natural to feel anxious and lost when trying to help your children heal after the death of a loved one.

You and your family aren’t alone in this struggle as, sadly, 1 in 20 Australian kids experience the death of their mum or dad before they turn 18*.

At Feel the Magic, our mission is to help families like yours heal, which is why we’re happy to provide you with these resources to help you and your child through your grief.

Supporting your child

The death of a parent can leave a child feeling isolated. It’s important as the remaining parent to comfort your child and always remind them that they are loved and cared for.

Providing comfort doesn’t mean you need to always be ‘strong’ – authentically expressing your emotions can help teach your child that it’s ok to be sad and talk about negative thoughts and feelings, and opens up opportunities for conversations about self-care, and positive coping strategies.

A great way to support your children is to  validate their feelings. You can let them know it is normal to experience big emotions during grief, and ensure they feel listened to through your body language, tone of voice, and eye contact.

We know that not all adults are comfortable and experienced at talking openly about emotions. This is why we have a range of resources to help parents communicate with their grieving children. We also have resources to help with your own self-care, because looking after yourself is an important first step towards being the best support for your children that you can be.

Activities for staying connected

When living with grief, getting through each day can take up all your family’s energy, so it’s easy to lose connection with each other. This loss of connection can make the experience of grief even more difficult, so it’s important to put effort into maintaining and strengthening the connections between yourself and your child.

We recommend organising connection activities and have compiled a list of some of our favourites. Good connection activities provide a fun and safe environment in which your kids can connect both with you and the grief they feel for the loved one they lost. You can also use these activities as an opportunity to start conversations with your kids about what they are thinking and feeling.

When to reach out for support

No matter where you and your child are in your grief journey, reaching out for help is always ok. If you need immediate help or wish to learn more about other grief organisations that can offer you support, we have created a list of other organisations that exist to support people’s mental wellbeing and grief. You can also join our grief community if you wish to connect with other families who understand what you are going through.  

At Feel the Magic, we are dedicated to helping grieving kids heal. We have virtual and face-to-face camps designed by psychologists and run by mental health professionals to give kids and parents the tools they need to connect with their emotions and each other.

Our programs encourage healthy grieving and introduce families to a supportive community that understands. For more information or to register your interest in our camps, please contact us.