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Winston’s Wish offers help and advice for bereaved children and their families at Christmas time

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When someone important has died, Christmas can be a difficult time for children and equally challenging for parents, carers and other family members.

Winston’s Wish helps over 30,000 children every year through its national Freephone Helpline 08088 020 021, weekly groups, support programmes and one to one support services. The charity offers some practical ideas for how to support and look after yourself and your family over the Christmas period:

1. Family members will have different ways of grieving, and it is important to try and be sensitive to everyone’s needs. Some children and young people may want to celebrate Christmas, and others may find the day very difficult. It is helpful before the Christmas period to have a chat as a family to think through how everyone is feeling about Christmas.

2. Some families find it useful to continue old family traditions, whereas others may choose to create a new family tradition e.g. baking a special Christmas cake together.

3. It may be important to mark the memory of the person that has died by doing something special. This could be visiting a special place, lighting a candle, or buying a new special decoration for the tree.

4. It might be important to visit the grave or the place where the ashes were scattered and place a Christmas card there.

5. You could ask the family to write cards or special messages and tie these to helium balloons and release them into the sky.

6. Ask other people for their memories of the person who died and begin to compile their ‘life story’. If family members are together at Christmas, it would be a good opportunity to record these. You could include Christmas memories, for example: ‘What was the worst or best present they ever gave you?’ ‘What was their favourite part of the day?’

7. You could choose to eat their favourite meal – fish and chips? Curry? Egg on toast?

8. Listen to their favourite music, or their favourite Christmas music.

9. Make and bake salt dough shapes to hang on the tree. You could decorate them with things important to the person who died.

10. On Christmas day itself, remember to look after yourself, if things become a bit too much, you could always find a way to take a breather. Give yourself permission to not be ok and, equally, to have fun and smile.

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