Facing the festive season while grieving can be a tough and emotionally challenging time. While the rest of the world seems to be rejoicing, the thought of celebrating without your loved one can seem daunting. You may feel tempted to “cancel Christmas” and hide away until the festive season is over. But for many, particularly those with children, this isn’t always an option.
So, how do you cope with grief at Christmas time? Here are a few steps you can take – but remember, only ever do what feels right for you.
Open up a discussion before Christmas
People experience and deal with grief in different ways, and it’s important to try and accommodate everyone where possible. Some people find traditions comforting, while others need a distraction.
It’s worth opening up a discussion before Christmas to see if there’s anything special that your family would like to do together, or individually, to remember the person you’ve lost. Taking time out to understand how everyone is feeling will make sure you’re more sensitive to one another on Christmas Day.
Don’t feel pressured to get involved with everything
If you’re surrounded by Christmas adverts, festive music and nostalgic traditions, it might feel overwhelming. Don’t feel obliged to get involved with every festive tradition. If sending Christmas cards, putting up decorations or buying material gifts feel too much – skip them. Talk to your family and see if there’s something else you could do other than exchange gifts.
Pay tribute to your loved one
It’s important to allow everyone the opportunity to look forward to Christmas and take joy in the day, but it’s also okay to take time out to recognise that there’s someone special missing. You might plan to dedicate a time within the day to pay a special tribute to your loved one. While it can be painful to honour someone you’ve lost at Christmas, it can also feel like a comforting way to celebrate their life and keep their memory alive.
Here are a few ways you can pay tribute to your loved one at Christmas:
- Pour their favourite drink and toast to their memory
- Share some special photos
- Light a candle
- Watch their favourite film
- Listen to their favourite song
- Cook their favourite dish
- Take time out to visit their grave
- Write down your favourite memories and hang them up on the tree
- Use your online memorial page to pay tribute and create an online Memory Box
Know when it’s getting too much
It might feel as though there are trigger-points everywhere you look at Christmas time. If it’s too much at once, consider taking a break from all the festivities. Maybe go on a walk to get some fresh air, take a bath or step away to write down your thoughts. Sometimes it can help to be around other people, but at other times, it can all feel a little too much. Don’t feel pressured to be cheerful all the time.
It’s okay to have happy moments
Remember, it’s okay to be happy and enjoy yourself. This doesn’t take away from how much you love and miss the person who you’ve lost. If you find moments of joy, hold onto them.
Grief support at Christmas
It may not be the Christmas you’d hoped for, but there are ways to make it meaningful. Try not to spend the entire day by yourself. If you’re struggling to deal with the grieving process over Christmas, or anytime, don’t go through it alone.
- Contact Cruse Bereavement Care or call their helpline: 0808 808 1677.
- Talk to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor. You can get free therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on the NHS.