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Highmark Caring Place offers advice on what to say to help grieving children during the holidays

Children’s Grief Awareness Day, November 17, 2016, focuses attention on the need to reach out to support grieving children and let them know they are not alone

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 17, 2016) —November 17, 2016 is Children's Grief Awareness Day. Its purpose is to remind us how hard the holidays are for children who have had a parent, grandparent or sibling die. They need extra support and to know that they are not alone.

"The death of a loved one has a huge impact on the life of a child and the grief lasts a long time," said Terese Vorsheck, a clinical psychologist and director of the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families. "Often the second or third holiday after a death is harder than the first because now the reality has set in that they're not coming back."

"People want to help but they don't know what to do. Actually, the most important thing you can do is to listen and to be with them when they want to talk," she explained.

Gentle ways to open a conversation include the following:

  • I was thinking about you. I know it's been six months since your mom died, and I just wonder how you're feeling.
  • I bet you still miss your dad.
  • This Thanksgiving or holiday must be hard for you.

Another helpful approach is to invite the child to share a favorite memory of what the holidays were like when their loved one was still alive. Did they make a special dish? Did their family have a favorite tradition? Along with the person, it's also the traditions and memories that children are missing at holiday time.

Before they graduate from high school, one child in twenty will have a parent die. One child in five will experience the death of someone close to them.

"Holidays intensify already difficult feelings of sadness and pain," Vorsheck said. "Memories of past holidays contrast sharply with the present one. Grieving children can feel even more set apart and different, outside the circle of fun, laughter and togetherness. It helps immeasurably to have others recognize this and reach out."

"We can help by checking in with the children in our lives, our own and the other kids we know. Simply seeing that we care and that they are not all alone can make a difference."

Children's Grief Awareness Day (#CGADHope) was founded by the Highmark Caring Place in 2008. It is now international in scope, with participating organizations across the nation and the globe.

Children's Grief Awareness Day is observed each year on the third Thursday in November. This time of year is a particularly appropriate time to support grieving children because the holiday season is approaching. One way the day is commemorated is by wearing blue to show solidarity with grieving children who wear the blues every day.

Tips for supporting grieving children during the holidays can be found on the Highmark Caring Place website at

About the Highmark Caring Place

The mission of the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families, is to raise awareness of the needs of grieving children, provide programs to address those needs and empower the community to support children who have experienced the death of a loved one. Since its inception in 1996, the Caring Place has served more than 90,000 family and community members. Financial support from Highmark Inc. allows the Caring Place, with facilities in Lemoyne, Erie, Pittsburgh and Warrendale, Pennsylvania to offer its programs at no cost to the families and the community. For more information, visit


Wendy Morphew
Highmark Media Relations
412-544-3616 (office)
917-697-1782 (cell)