December 1988

Helping Families Get Through the Holidays After the Death of a Child

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis.

Am J Dis Child. 1988;142(12):1284-1286. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1988.02150120038035

The Thanksgiving turkey is about to be carved when the mother starts crying. On the way home, after the Thanksgiving dinner, the parents wonder how they are ever going to make it through Christmas or Hanukkah and the New Year. They are grieving for the child who died this past year, and the family traditions of the holiday season just accentuate the pain and emptiness left by the loss of their child.

Holidays and anniversaries of significant dates for the family (eg, the child's birthday, christening, confirmation, etc) are especially difficult times for the surviving family members.1 It is at these times that the child's absence is especially marked. The first year is the hardest; during each subsequent year, it gets a little easier for the family to handle the holidays. They must learn to take one day at a time. The anticipation of the holiday/anniversary is actually worse

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