Dealing with Grief at Christmas

Christmas is a time for celebration and family, which makes coping with the loss of a loved one particularly raw and painful.

The first Christmas after saying goodbye is incredibly hard, but it doesn’t matter how many years have passed, you can still feel grief and sadness.

There are many things that you can do, both to deal with those feelings, and celebrate the memories of someone who used to be such a big part of the season.

  1. Talk about it. Don’t feel that everyone will be expecting you to be cheerful and upbeat. People may not know what to say, or worry about upsetting you, but will be glad that you have spoken about it and happy to talk.
  2. Make them part of the day. Christmas is a time of tradition. Think about a special ritual that you can take part in, that draws on the happy memories you have. This could be a particular Christmas decoration, a favourite food, a Christmas song or the lighting of a candle. Anything that will cause you to pause a moment. Shed a tear if you wish.
    “Every year I make a trifle for Christmas Day. My Mum always made one and I always say a little prayer for her as I’m sprinkling on the almonds”
    “My husband always loved proper nuts at Christmas, so I place a bowl and some nutcrackers on the table just for him”
  3. Plan some quiet time. Christmas is a hectic time, so make sure you find some time to do something just for yourself. A glass of wine and a favourite film, or a special treat, can be something to look forward to.
  4. Plan some company. Don’t feel that you have to be alone. If you don’t feel you can face large parties, especially if it’s something your loved one would have attended too, then call a friend or someone close who can spend some time with you instead.
  5. Allow yourself to feel sad. Everyone experiences grief and loss in different ways. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel sadness and not try to bottle it up for the season. You are in pain and need the support of others. If you feel like you have no one to talk to, there is lots of support available if you need. The Samaritans are at the end of the phone on 08457 909090.
  6. Look after yourself. Time can get lost at Christmas so it’s even more important to look after yourself. Go to sleep and get up at similar times. Get dressed up when you need to, even if you don’t feel like it. Do enjoy a drink, but not too much. Alcohol may numb the feelings of grief temporarily, but in the long run it will make things worse. Recognise what you are drinking and why.
  7. Try to enjoy yourself. It’s OK to have fun at Christmas, however many other painful moments there may be. Sing, dance, play games, laugh if you want to. No one will judge you and every year, those happy moments will be more frequent, and the painful moments decrease.
  8. Remember that people grieve in different ways. Try to remember that other members of your family and close friends are grieving too. You may find comfort in each other, even if you look on the surface like you are dealing with things differently. Don’t assume that because they are not doing what you do, they are not feeling what you feel.

Over the course of Christmas, we’ll be sharing some ideas for remembering loved ones on our Facebook page, we hope you’ll share yours with us too.