Grieving at Christmas

Grief over the loss of a loved one can be particularly raw at Christmas.  Everywhere we look, we see people making plans to celebrate with their families, or things that remind us of years gone by. 

The first Christmas is often a painful one.  However, it doesn’t matter how many years have passed, grief and loss can still be overwhelming.

As each Christmas passes, we find ways of managing those feelings and incorporating our loved ones in some way.  Every year will be different, as you will feel at a different point in your grief.  All you can do is try some things out, and find what works for you.

Here is what we have learnt from others grieving at Christmas.

  • Accept it might not work, but also that it might.  There is such pressure to make Christmas the best that it can be, but that isn’t always possible. All you can do is find a way that works for you.  You may want to try something completely different, or you may wish to keep to old traditions.  Either way, you may discover it doesn’t feel right.  If that’s the case, it’s OK, just remember that next year you can try something else.
  • Accept that every year will be different. Many people say the second year feels worse than the first.  More effort is put into the first Christmas, especially by those around you.  Future years may feel harder as you accept that the loss is forever.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to ‘feel better’ than last year.  That’s not how it works.
  • Talk about your loss.  Whether it’s the first year of the 10th, be comfortable talking about how you feel.  Many people will be worried about making you sad, or bringing it up when you don’t want to, but will be happy to listen.  Share memories, find a trusted friend or loved one to spend with. Don’t assume that no one else is thinking about it.
  • Christmas is a time of tradition so make them part of the day. Draw on the happy memories you have to make new traditions. This could be a hanging a particular Christmas decoration, cooking a favourite meal or the simple lighting of a candle. Anything that will cause you to pause a moment.

“He loved pigs in blankets, so we have those as a special festive breakfast”

“My husband always loved proper nuts at Christmas, so I place a bowl and some nutcrackers on the table just for him”

  • Peace and Quiet. Christmas can be overwhelming, so make sure you find time for yourself. A film and a glass of wine, or a special treat, can give you a moment to catch your breath.  Don’t pack your diary with events if you don’t want to.  There is no need to feel obliged. 
  • Plan some company. Having said that, don’t feel that you have to be alone. If you can’t face large parties then try to arrange something smaller with some friends.  If you can’t face a late night, then try to organise a walk or coffee instead
  • Allow yourself to feel how you feel. Everyone experiences grief and loss in different ways. You must 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 116 123  or text SHOUT to 85258
  • Take physical care of yourself. Time can get lost at Christmas so make sure you are looking after yourself. Go to sleep and get up at similar times. Get showered and put on nice clothes, even if you don’t feel like it. Enjoy a drink, but watch how much. Alcohol may numb the feelings of grief for a while, but in the long run it will make things worse. Make sure you are eating properly on not just grazing on the Christmas snacks.
  • Enjoy yourself. It’s OK to have fun at Christmas and often, grief can make us appreciate the small joys in life. Sing, dance, play games, laugh if you want to. Don’t feel that anyone will judge you for happy moments.  The happy will learn to live side by side with the sad, as time goes on.
  • Be kind to each other.  People grieve differently.  It can cause anger and resentment at Christmas if you feel that other people aren’t behaving as you would like.  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.

We hope this has given you some useful things to think about, and the festive season.  We hope that you find a way through that works for you.

If you know someone who is grieving, make sure they are in your thoughts and plans this year.  A simple card mentioning their loved one, a phone call or invitation can make all the difference.

We wish you a peaceful Christmas and all our best wishes for the New Year.