A Holiday ‘Bill of Rights’ for Grieving Families

Guest post by Jenny Simmonds, program director, Fairview’s Youth Grief Services

“It’s the most wonderful time of year.” We’ve all heard these lyrics played ad nauseam in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Yet, for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be the most dreaded time of the year. The holidays may magnify all that’s been lost and all that has forever changed.

It can be an added challenge if you are raising children who want to engage in all of the excitement and joy of the season, but parents and caregivers want to wish the season away. So how do you navigate the holidays as a family?  And how do you hold a space for the joy that your children bring while honoring your own feelings that may be vastly different?

At Fairview’s Youth Grief Services, we have the privilege of supporting families who find themselves in this challenging situation.  We’ve created a “Bill of Rights” for grieving families that offers suggestions and choices you can make as a family to navigate through the holidays.

During the holiday season, you have the right to…

  • Hold on, let go and/or create new holiday traditions
  • Plan together as a family on how you each envision celebrating the holiday season
  • Change your mind about your plans
  • Choose life-giving people who feed and nourish you emotionally
  • Create a ritual as a family to remember your loved one
  • Acknowledge, talk about, and remember your loved one whenever and wherever you want
  • Feel differently than your children about the holiday season
  • Feel joy and laugh; Feel sad and cry
  • Do something totally different: leave town, volunteer to serve others, go out to eat, go to a waterpark, etc.
  • Let go of the things you’d only be doing out of obligation
  • Eliminate or limit emotionally toxic people
  • Feel a rollercoaster of feelings

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to surviving the holidays while coping with a loss.

Youth Grief Services is a free community service of Fairview, offering a safe and nurturing place where you and your children can turn for help after a loved one dies.  We offer grief support and education series for youth and adults, Camp Erin® and more. We are here to help, even if you aren’t quite sure what you or your kids need. Call us at 952-892-2111 or email us and we’ll talk through your situation and get you pointed in the right direction.

Jenny Simmonds

Program Director, Youth Grief Services

Jenny Simmonds joined Fairview’s Youth Grief Services in 2007 and is currently its Program Director. She holds a master’s of education in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota and has facilitated hundreds of educational and support groups with children, teens and parents. Jenny has also served as adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota in the Youth Studies Department and has authored two books that serve as resources for school social workers, teachers and youth leaders.

Youth Grief Services programming is provided free of charge, thanks to the generous donations of individuals, corporations and foundations. Support this important work—give the gift of hope and healing this holiday season.

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