Joy, Grief, Loss and “Grinchiness” During the Holidays
Oftentimes I have wondered why the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small.
Why does he live alone in a cave atop a mountain? Did he experience something in his youth that isolated him from others? Does he have trauma surrounding the celebration of Christmas? What life experiences impacted his decision to steal Christmas?
Just as with this classic Christmas tale, we foster parents and caregivers don’t always have the answers to what happened in the past. The kids in our care come with their own expectations, joys, and pains surrounding this time of year. They have different experiences of the holidays than our own.
As a foster parent, I am reminded that amidst all of the festivities and excitement surrounding this time of year, there is more going on for the children in our care. The holidays can be a joyful time, but they are also a time we and the kids in our care can experience grief, loss, and our own inner “Grinchiness.”
As we approach this holiday season, you might find it helpful to prepare yourself and those in your home for whatever is to come. Here are a few tips:
- Check your expectations. Do you expect matching outfits and a grand feast? Are you planning an elaborate celebration with your family and friends? Do you expect everyone to be cheerful and thankful? Take some time to think about your own expectations for the holidays and consider how they affect the child in your care. Do your expectations need to be adjusted?
- Be mindful and curious. Take some time to discover the joys and pains of your foster children surrounding the holidays. Maybe they are missing their family, traditions, or school routine. Pay attention to what might be behind their words and actions. As you learn more about their needs and expectations, brainstorm ways you can respond. You may discover a creative way to incorporate one of their family traditions into yours. Your case manager may be able to help plan a time for the child in your care to celebrate with their family. The children may find comfort in the pieces of their routine you are able to keep consistent.
- Be flexible. No matter how much you prepare, there will be times when things don’t go as planned. Take a deep breath and adjust accordingly. Validate the feelings that are present. The holidays are a time for complex emotions and that is okay.
Ultimately the Grinch discovers that Christmas is about more than the presents and decorations. He comes down from the mountain and joins the Whos for their feast of roast beast. Although this is just a children’s story, I find hope in the Grinch’s change of heart. Sometimes, it’s the smallest action or recognition of who we are that gives us the courage to get through.