Tips For Coping With Grief At Christmas

September 9, 2022

Grief is something that is difficult regardless of the season, but Christmas can heighten feelings of grief for many as the Christmas season is often one where you spend time with friends, family and loved ones. Being surrounded by Christmas cheer can make people think about the loved ones they have lost more and can be an extremely poignant time of year. Whilst there is no advice on how to not feel grief (grief is important to feel), there are some tips with coping with grief at Christmas:

  1. Understand that the Christmas period will inevitably be difficult
  2. Decide with your friends and family which Christmas traditions you would like to continue and which ones you no longer think work
  3. Try introducing something new that has the potential to become a new tradition in the future
  4. Decide where you want to spend the Christmas. Be vocal with what your preferred location is and try and come to an agreement with your friends and family. Deciding last minute can cause unnecessary stress
  5. Remember that other members of your family or friends will be grieving as well and potentially will be grieving in different ways. Appreciating and acknowledging this can help everyone come to a compromise when it comes to Christmas plans
  6. Consider creating a memory box of Christmas memories or your favourite memories of your loved ones which you can share with others or treasure by yourself
  7. Honesty is key as Christmas can be a difficult time and telling people what you do and don’t want to do can help establish boundaries
  8. Light a candle of remembrance in memory of your loved one
  9. Don’t feel an obligation to send Christmas cards. It can be a difficult task and may be painful. Many people don’t send Christmas cards and donate to a charity instead. Why not donate to a charity that was close to your loved one.
  10. If your loved one had a favourite Christmas food or drink, try and incorporate this into the menu.
  11. Talk to a professional – seeing a grief therapist can be extremely beneficial especially during a tough time like Christmas. It is not a sign of weakness and many people can find comfort in having someone who didn’t know your loved one to talk to.
  12. Take a moment to visit your loved one’s grave or memorial if you wish. Remember it isn’t a necessity and some will want to actively avoided visiting a grave, but it can be comforting to go and have a moment alone. You could perhaps take a wreath or Christmas plant such as a Poinsettia to place on the grave.
  13. Listen to their favourite Christmas music but also your own!
  14. Write down your feelings – especially if your feelings are conflicting and you simply need to share
  15. Decline invitations to Christmas events if you think it will be too much. Whilst you probably want to be polite and accept all invitations, you have to understand your limits and make sure you schedule some time for self care as the Christmas season can be extremely hectic.
  16. Decide what you want to do about gifts. After a death, material items can often feel pointless and it can be a difficult time to buy presents. Discuss this with family and friends in advance. They will probably be happy to not exchange presents this year.
  17. Don’t feel obligated to decorate your house. Whilst some people will want to go more all out with decorations as a form of distraction or to embrace Christmas with family, but others may not want any. The decision is yours.
  18. Stay organised with lists. Whilst to-do lists can always be useful, the build up to Christmas can be hectic and people who are grieving often find it difficult to concentrate. Writing things down can really help keep you calm and avoid any last minute stresses.
  19. Ask for help. If you don’t feel up to certain Christmas tasks, like cooking Christmas dinner, then ask for help. Your family and friends will be there for you and will probably love to help and show you their support, however they can to ease the pressure off you. Listen to yourself and trust that you know what is best.
  20. Whilst your friends and family will only have your best interests at heart, you don’t have to take onboard all the advice they give you. Whilst they have your best intentions at heart, only you know how you want to cope with your grief as it is personal to you.
  21. Your emotions are valid. If you want to cry, cry. If you are happy, be happy. Christmas can be an emotional time regardless of whether you have experienced a loss and your emotions may vary significantly and quickly. Many people feel guilty about crying whilst others feel bad if they are happy, as if you have forgotten about your loved ones. This is not the case. Feeling happy or not crying does not mean that your feelings towards your loved one is diminished in any way.
  22. Try and enjoy yourself. Acknowledging that you are still surrounded by love and joy can be a wonderful realisation and Christmas can be a joyful time, even if some parts will be tough.

The tips stated in this article are only guidance. Everyone grieves in different ways and whilst these tips will hopefully help, don’t worry if they don’t work for you. You need to learn ways that work for you. Whilst the Christmas period will inevitably has its up and downs, you will hopefully still find love and joy.