Losing someone we love is hard at any time, but it can be particularly difficult around Christmas. In this blog I will share some tips that may help you deal with grief at this time of year.

Grieving at Christmas

There is not a set timescale on grief so whether it is your first Christmas without someone or your twentieth, we can still experience intense emotions such as sadness, anger and guilt. On the TV and in the media, images of people spending time with loved ones can highlight that someone is missing. It can seem like everyone else is happy and having a great time and you may feel pressure to be happy and getting on with festive activities too. 

1. Do what feels right for you 

There is no right or wrong way to ‘do’ Christmas. You may feel like keeping traditions you used to have and find comfort in the familiarity. Or you may find that doing things the way you always have is too difficult without your loved one and want to do something completely different. Either way is fine, and it is OK if this changes over time. Do what feels right for you, for now.

2. Have a remembrance ritual

It is impossible to ignore the absence of your loved one. It can help to have a symbol or ritual to remember them. Again there is no set way of doing this, but some examples could be having a decoration to remember the one you have lost, lighting a candle for them, or writing them a letter. For more creative ideas, see here

3. Say no

You may find you want to throw yourself into social activities which can be a helpful distraction. However, don’t feel you have to attend every party and gathering. You may find friends and family invite you to more things if they are conscious of you being alone – you don’t have to say yes to them all. It is OK to say no, take a break and have some time to yourself.

4. Accept help

You may feel pressure to carry on, cook the Christmas dinner and get all the presents… but you don’t have to. Lean on your support network and not only accept help but don’t be afraid to ask if you need it.

5. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise

It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be angry. It’s also OK to still find enjoyment in things. You don’t have to feel a certain way and grief can lead to lots of different emotions – sometimes contradictory ones at the same time.

6. Understand that everyone grieves in their own way

When you have lost someone, it is likely that the loss has also impacted family and friends around you. Everyone will cope with grief in their own way – and that’s OK. Others may feel they need or want to do certain things to cope with the loss – be accepting of their grieving process but also know that you don’t have to grieve in the same way.

7. Let others know your plans

In the same way that everyone will grieve in their own way, everyone may not have the same expectations for dealing with Christmas. Whatever you decide to do, let those around you know your plans and what would and wouldn’t be helpful. Also know that you don’t have to stick to those plans, it is OK to change your mind and if you do, just let people know the new plans.

8. Be kind to yourself

Particularly if others are dependent on you, you can feel that you need to be the one to stay strong and keep going. It is important to recognise what you need too. Plan in time to look after yourself, to rest, to do activities that help you to recharge such as exercise or spending time in nature.

9. Have a drink if you want to, but don’t use this as a coping mechanism

Many people indulge in a festive drink or two and it is fine if you wish to do so. However, it can also be attractive to drink to excess to numb the pain. Whilst this may provide some short-term relief, it does not help to cope with grief in the long-term. If you need support with drinking, further advice can be found here.


I hope these tips have been helpful in preparing for Christmas without a loved one. There is no one right way to cope with grief at Christmas – do what feels right for you. You can get further advice and hear other people’s stories here.

If you are interested in finding out how counselling can help support you through the grieving process, please get in touch:

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini)