Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one understands how the holidays can exacerbate grief. And this fact is just as true for children as it is for adults.
Since every child is unique, triggers vary. As an example, for a child who recently lost a sister like in your case, a trigger could be another child where the other has gone.
A trigger may be the sight of holiday displays in stores, the smells of the holidays at home or in school, or thinking about memories of special times spent with loved ones.
A “grief burst” is a response to what the child is feeling. It varies according to the child and may manifest itself as a display of sadness or anger in response to the loss.
Grief bursts vary in time and are impacted by the existence of previous losses, the type of loss and the social supports which have been received.
Grief bursts should be handled with the power of the listening ear. Parents, caregivers and educators must affirm the angry and sad feelings, which are all parts of the healing process.
Useful coping tools include acknowledging the losses through the use of bibliotherapy and creative expressions such as art and music.
Other useful tools may include engaging children in activities that they enjoy and allowing them to have opportunities to help others. It is important that children “tell the stories” and recount memories of loved ones.
Each child is unique, and therefore the grieving process varies along with the child. So there is no “back to normal.”
There is the “new normal.” We are forever changed by our losses. When the child returns to school after the holidays, and routines are re-established, the return to schedules and predictability of school is useful.
Being drawn back into activities is helpful in the healing process. If the child still seems sad, depressed, withdrawn or angry, additional support should be provided.
It is absolutely better to talk with the child. Children need platforms to express their grief in a supportive, safe way. Emotions and feelings need to be released. Children need to know that it is ok to be sad, angry and to cry.