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A guide to dealing with grief at Christmas

Christmas is well and truly among us and although this time of year should feel like a festive celebration with the ones we love, it can be a particularly difficult time following the loss of a loved one.

We’ve put together a guide on dealing with grief over the Christmas period to help make this time of year a little more manageable for you and your loved ones.

Give yourself permission to enjoy Christmas

Don’t feel guilty for looking forward to Christmas. You’re allowed to enjoy the festive period and shouldn’t feel bad for doing so. Grief is hard to manage at the best of times but at Christmas it feels a lot heavier. So, if you can smile and have fun, then you absolutely should!

Don’t feel pressure to have your usual Christmas

At the same time, you may be dreading Christmas time and that is okay. Christmas can be a constant reminder of your loved one and now they’re gone, hosting your usual Christmas may be the last thing you want to do. This is normal and it’s perfectly okay. Instead, give yourself permission to do things differently this year. Because putting pressure on yourself to do things normally will only leave you feeling worse.

Talk to a family member

Grief can be overwhelming but especially at Christmas, when love and family time is celebrated. It is natural for your emotions to be heightened but instead of bottling them up, spend time with family and friends and talk about how you’re feeling. You’ll feel worlds better after getting it off your chest and may find comfort in talking about your loved one and reminiscing on the memories you shared together.

Find some connection with your loved one

You may find that looking back at old photographs or playing a favourite song is a good way to find some connection with your loved one and a helpful way to cope with grief at Christmas. You may want to light a candle in their honour or put up a special decoration on the Christmas tree in their memory. This could be a new tradition you decide to introduce as a family, to remember the person you have lost and bring you closer together in a time of struggle.

Ask for help

Asking for help is always ok. In fact, it is encouraged, especially when you’re navigating loss and grief. Losing someone can feel extremely lonely which is why it is so important to reach out and ask for help. Family and friends will want to be there for you so don’t feel ashamed to ask them for support. Bereavement counselling can also be accessed via your GP as well as other telephone support services like The Samaritans.

Help others

If you’d rather not celebrate Christmas this year, you might find volunteering a helpful distraction. Spending time helping those less fortunate than you has the benefit of making you feel better and can be really rewarding. It allows you time to reflect and put things into perspective which is important at this time of year. And if you’re looking for a way out of Christmas eve and Christmas day, you can volunteer at homeless shelters and soup kitchens which remain open over the entire festive period.

Be kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself should always take priority, especially at Christmas. All the bright lights, festive songs and constant present buying can be triggering and add to the weight of your grief. Make sure you take time out for yourself and do what makes you happy. Whether that’s a day under the covers, a relaxing bath, or a tempting takeaway, self-care is vital and can reduce any stress and anxiety you may experiencing.

For more support following the death of a loved one, there are many organisations that can help. Find out more about bereavement support.

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