Ways to cope with their first Christmas after someone has died

September 9, 2022

a lit candle at Christmas

For many, the sight of christmas lights and decorations can bring warm feelings of joy and happiness. However, for some it can actually be the reverse. The sounds of Christmas music, chatter in the office about christmas plans and news of family gatherings, can all compound a feeling of sadness and lonliness – particularly if you are dealing with grief over a loved one. Here are some simple strategies and thoughts to consider as the festive season approaches.

Meeting your own needs

It can be useful to think ahead about your plans for Christmas time and Christmas day itself. What your plans might be, and who you would like to share your time with. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured into spending your time in any way that doesn’t feel right to you.

It is only natural that your relatives or close friends may wish to invite you to spend time with them as Christmas approaches, equally they might believe that you would prefer to be given space.

It is important, that you think carefully about your own needs and how you would like to spend the festive period and that you communicate that to those close to you – whatever your decision may be.

Feeling your emotions

You are likely to feel a wide array of emotions through this time of the year. Our feelings around the festive season are tied up in all kinds of memories that can often be vivid and bright. All emotions – whether happy or sad – take up our energy and can leave you feeling drained. It can be easy to get caught up in the rush of Christmas time with all its preparation but try to give yourself time too. Be kind to yourself, take breaks and go at a pace that feels natural, and manageable to you.

Remembering your loved one

Many of our family traditions are tied into Christmas. Whether that’s going for a walk on Christmas afternoon, opening our presents in a particular order, or watching a particular TV show or movie. Honouring these traditions can help to retain a bond with the past, but don’t be afraid to shake up these traditions and create new ones, if you fear they may be too hard. Here are a few ways that you can honour your loved one at Christmas time:

  • Make a toast to your loved one
  • Recite a poem or play a song that they enjoyed
  • Make a christmas decoration in their honour
  • Donate to a charity close to their memory
  • Visit a park or particular place that they liked to go
  • Set an extra place for them at the dinner table or display a photograph
  • Light a candle for them and share a cherished memory

Finding support

You are never alone in your grief and there are always people that can listen, guide you, and shoulder some of the weight. Try to reach out to friends, family, colleagues or members of any groups you may belong to.

Grief can be complicated and hard to discuss, and if you feel that you can’t talk to those close to you, then you can opt for impartial advice from bereavement groups instead. Organisations like the Cruse National Helpline on 0808 808 1677 have trained grief counsellors on hand to talk to you, either on the phone or through their CruseChat website service.