Grief at Christmas

16th December 2022 12:00

16th December 2022


Grief is different for every person and there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is no right or wrong way to spend the coming weeks over the festive period. 

We have put together these ideas about grief at Christmas, not everything will suit every person so don’t worry if something is not for you. These are just some things others have found helpful. 


Find ways to honour your loved one 
You can incorporate your loved one into the day in a way that feels right for you- whether it’s toasting to absent friends, visiting their grave, or just taking a moment to have them in your thoughts. You can bring their memory into the present with you.  


Revisit traditions
Christmas might not look the same this year as it has done previously. There may be extra pressure as it is the first Christmas post-Covid restrictions. It may be an opportunity to throw out the rulebook and think about what you want to do at this time of year. If you are dreading a certain aspect of Christmas, do you need to do it? Or can you limit the time spent on that activity? Think about what traditions you would like to engage in, whether keeping the old ones or forging something new.  


Would it be helpful to have a start and stop time for what you deem to be ‘Christmas’ so that you can get through it at a pace that suits you? Or perhaps planning gentle activities would help the time pass better? If you are worried about what conversations may come up, plan what you might say in those circumstances or plan how to end an activity you find distressing. Any plans you do make don’t have to be rigid, you can check in with yourself and change them as necessary. 


Everyone is different
People have different ideas about how to do things and this can cause tension in families, when one person’s way of grieving is different to another’s. This can come to a head when people may be spending more time together at Christmas. Acknowledge that people can honour what is right for them, even when it feels strange for you. Having open conversations about your needs, while being sensitive to others’, may result in a happy medium.  


TV Guide
Christmas TV and films can be a welcome escape but can also fuel pressure to be having a wonderful time. Check in with yourself, is what you’re watching helpful, relaxing, enjoyable? If not, find something else to do.  


Over doing it

It’s not what you do it’s how much you do it. Christmas can be a time of overindulgence, and for people experiencing grief it can be all too easy to do things that appear to numb the pain; like drinking, overspending on presents, or retreating from the world. There is temptation to do things to try and make yourself feel better in the short term but in the long run they can cause feelings of guilt, panic, or shame.  Try to acknowledge when you feel the urge to do this and name it e.g. ‘I am having the urge to drink’, ‘I am having the urge to buy gifts I can’t afford’.  


Talking to others
Let people know how you feel, and what is or isn’t helpful for you. Often people don’t know how to act towards a grieving person so they might do things that you find unhelpful or difficult- letting them know how they can do things differently might take the pressure off both of you. You don’t need to justify yourself- if people do not understand, it is not your responsibility to make them 


Be generous with you
Take breaks when you need them. Plan something nice after something difficult. And allow yourself to feel your feelings, whatever they may be.   


Activities to keep busy: 

Go for a walk
Rent books from your local library
Craft ideas
Write- whether journalling for yourself or writing cards for others. Getting your thoughts on paper can be cathartic 


Activities to remember loved ones: 

Light a candle
Hang a decoration in memory of them 
Have an empty chair at the dinner table (you may want to check in with others to make sure they are comfortable with this) 
Share your favourite memories of them
Visit a special place 


Activities to be mindful: 

Body scan exercise: 

Sit or lie comfortably someplace you won’t be disturbed.  

Take as long as you want to complete this exercise and try not to rush through it. 

Close your eyes & bring your attention to your breath, settling into the rhythm of your breathing without trying to change it in any way. 

After a few moments, bring your attention to the very tips of your toes. 

Scan slowly & gradually from your feet to your head, taking time to notice any sensations. 

Be aware of what you are noticing with openness and interest. 

You will find your attention wanders from the body scan at points, note this without judgement and bring your attention back to the here and now, continuing where your body scan. 


Mindful tea-drinking (or your preferred beverage!):  

Take five minutes to sit comfortably with your drink. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Feel the chair you are sitting on, feel your feet on the floor. Hold the cup in both hands. Engage all of your senses. Feel the temperature of the cup, the texture of the surface. Notice the smell. Take a sip and connect with your body- how does it taste? How does it feel? Where can you feel it? What sounds can you hear? Repeat until you have finished your tea. Gradually move in your chair and slowly open your eyes to reconnect with your day. 


If you are struggling you can: 

Call Cruse Bereavement Helpline on 0808 802 6161 

Call Samaritans on 116 123 

Text SHOUT to 85258. This is a free 24/7 crisis text service run by Shout.