Q. If parents are experiencing grief during the holiday season -- from the loss of their own parent or friend, or the anniversary of such a loss -- how can they help ensure that the season is still joyful for their children?
A. "When people themselves are grieving, it's very hard for them to want to celebrate the holidays," says Laraine Gordon, a social worker and clinical director of the Long Island-based bereavement program COPE -- Connecting Our Paths Eternally. "There's no easy way to put on a happy face."
The most important thing is to be honest, she says. Let the children know why you might feel sad this year. Tell your kids that doesn't mean you don't want them to enjoy the holiday festivities.
"Kids will inevitably feel responsible for their parents' feelings," Gordon says. "You don't want them to feel guilty about feeling good." If you really can't imagine celebrating, consider allowing your kids, especially smaller children, to go with other family members or friends for the day who may not be dealing with the same loss. That way, the kids still have the opportunity to be excited this year without feeling inhibited, Gordon suggests.
Visit sites like griefnet.org or check out books such as "The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions" (Baker Books, $9.99) or "Healing Your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season" (Companion Press, $11.95).