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Grieving at Christmas

There is no escaping in acknowledging that the festive season is coming. Adverts, television programmes, Christmas songs on the radio and decorations everywhere we look. Talking about grief at any time is difficult but it can seem all the worse in the run up to Christmas. While it's meant to be the season to be jolly, the festive season often reminds us of the people who are no longer with us, which makes grieving at Christmas so hard.

Christmas can be an incredibly difficult period for those who have been bereaved. This time of year can bring up so many different emotions, we can feel hugely heightened. The way people treat Christmas following a bereavement can differ a lot. For some, there may be a worry that it is disrespectful to celebrate Christmas when mourning, while others can think that following the traditions in which the deceased once participated in, is a good way to honour their memory.

A woman with head in her hands in front of a Christmas tree

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to celebrate Christmas (or not!) after a bereavement. You must do what feels right for yourself and your family. If you’re worried that you’re going to be struggling with grief this Christmas – no matter how long ago your bereavement was – here is some advice on coping with bereavement at Christmas:

  • If the idea of doing what you always did is too painful, then think outside the box and do something different. If this is your first Christmas without a loved one then staying at home might feel too difficult. You might want to go away for a few days, or stay with a friend or family member.

  • Sometimes the anticipation of certain times of year can be worse than the actual days themselves. Perhaps the most important thing is to simply recognise that the upcoming days or weeks might be hard. Remember to tell yourself ‘It is ok not to be ok’.

  • Reach out and help others if you feel up to it. Helping others has the added benefit of making you feel better, as well as offering a powerful distraction. If you feel lonely, planning structure to your days by volunteering can help you to cope over the Christmas period. Try to include other activities, such as exercise and just taking walks, if you don’t feel up to anything else. Getting outside is key for your mental health.

  • Decorate, even if it's just something small. Think about putting a Christmas tree up in honour and celebration of your loved one and in recognition of how you have taken steps to cope – even if they are small ones.

Remember, it’s important to do what feels right for you.

Below are some organisations that can help at Christmas time with grief:


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