Grief and loss at Christmas


The build-up to Christmas and the festivities themselves can be a massive trigger if you have suffered a bereavement or loss of any kind.

It’s quite normal to feel really apprehensive about marking Christmas without a loved one - and far from wanting to deck the halls and stock the cupboards, you might feel as if you want to cancel the occasion altogether.

Christmas - perhaps more so than any other time of year - is full of memories and that can bring with it an overwhelming sense of sadness, or feelings of being unable to cope.

Even if you’ve been coping with your loss quite well previously, Christmas might bring back some real raw emotion. It may feel like the grieving process has slowed down, or even gone backwards. Some people describe it as like being back at square one.

You might find yourself tearful, more anxious, having no energy or feeling tired, or not wanting to be around family members or other people.

It’s really important that you are as kind as possible to yourself in the run-up to Christmas. Acknowledge your feelings and that grief is not a linear journey, but comes with its many ups and downs.

Some of the following things might help:

  • Keep your expectations realistic
    Don’t expect Christmas to be the same; it will feel different, but accepting this can help
  • Cut yourself some slack
    If you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut down on what you set out to do; go for the minimum possible amount of preparation, decoration, writing Christmas cards and so on.
  • Make some small changes
    If it helps, think about rearranging furniture or table settings so you’re not constantly reminded there’s someone missing
  • Eat drink and be merry - but not too much
    Avoid sugar highs and lows and go easy on the alcohol, which can heighten feelings of grief
  • Give yourself permission to be sad
    It’s ok to admit how you’re feeling, both to yourself and others
  • Accept help
    If people offer to help with preparations, babysitting or other tasks, don’t feel you have to do it all alone
  • Say no
    If the pressure of expectations are too much, it’s ok to say no, or to take the days as they come and not feel you have to plan minute by minute
  • Schedule a ritual
    It can help to make space for your loved one: light a candle, look at some photos or share a memory. They can still be part of your day.
  • Remind yourself that you are coping
    Time may not heal, but it does help you to adjust

Getting help

Everyone experiences grief differently and there will be many unpredictable twists and turns. There is no right or wrong time to seek help, just as there is no time limit on grief.

It might help to talk to friends or other relatives, or to take time to write your thoughts down.

LionHeart offers free counselling which offers you a safe and confidential place to talk to a professional about your loss.

To find out more call us free on 0800 009 2960 or email


Mark Hodson MBACP is one of the LionHeart counsellors. Find out more about LionHeart counselling here 

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