Coping with the loss of a loved one around the holidays

News and Blog

Grief and loss can be difficult to deal with at any time of the year, but these feelings can be particularly poignant around the holidays, or special days and events that you once celebrated together. Whether it’s your first Christmas without them, or perhaps they passed years ago, here are our five top tips to help you cope.

Be kind to yourself

Our first top tip is to be kind and compassionate with yourself. You may be sad, or angry, or anxious and worried. You may be happy, or have moments of joy. You may find that you don’t particularly feel anything at all at times. Whatever emotion you are feeling is valid – grief affects us all differently, there is no wrong or right way to feel.

Give yourself permission to take a step back as and when you need it. This might be choosing not to attend certain get-togethers and spending the evening curled up on the sofa with your favourite film instead, taking a nap in the middle of the day, going for a walk or setting time aside to sit with yourself and your emotions.

Try to arm yourself with a toolbox of self-care activities that you can fall back on should you need them, such as journalling, meditation or reading. Don’t feel guilty for turning to these – remember that taking care of yourself is important, particularly when you’re struggling.

You may find that you need to take things more slowly, or do less altogether.

Revisit old traditions

That leads us on to our next tip – revisiting old traditions. Christmas is often a time where we take part in some of the same activities every year. It may be that those activities can’t take place anymore, or that they’ll look different from the way they did before the death of your loved one.

Consider what each of your traditions means to you, and those around you. It may be that you want to keep hold of some of those old traditions; it may help you to feel connected to them, or bring back positive memories of the times that you did those things together. Acknowledge that it may be difficult to do this and leave space and time for difficult emotions to arise.

It might be an idea to recruit your friends and family to join you in doing them instead, so that you don’t have to experience your old traditions alone and to give you the chance to make some fun new memories.

Don’t be afraid to scrap or change old traditions that no longer feel comfortable or right for you. It’s okay to put them on pause for a couple of years, or to forget them altogether.

Start some new ones too

Whether you’ve kept all of your old traditions or none, our third tip is to start some new traditions too. These might be fun activities that you can do with friends, family, colleagues or on your own, such as visiting a special place, expressing yourself creatively or organising a gathering for an annual secret santa swap.

It may be tweaking some of your old traditions slightly to fit with how you’re feeling and the fact that your loved one is missing. For example, if you always had Christmas dinner at their house, you might want to gather all the same people to celebrate at a different place of residence. Or if they always made the stockings, maybe there’s someone else who wants to take on the responsibility, adding a token in your loved one’s memory.

You might want to start other traditions in your loved one’s memory too, such as visiting their headstone or a place that was important to them, making Christmas decorations in their favourite colours and designs, or making a charitable donation in their memory to a cause that you know they supported.

Push the festivities back

Whilst we typically celebrate Christmas in December, there is nothing to say that you couldn’t push the holidays back if you want and need to.

Grief often comes in waves and it may be that the ‘traditional’ time of year for Christmas brings about more intense feelings than other times of the year… particularly if you’re surrounded by others who don’t appear to share the same struggles and get smothered by Christmas music, ads and decorations everywhere you go.

If you decide that you’d still like to host or celebrate Christmas, you may find that pushing it back a few months, or even into the middle of the year, can help to alleviate some of the negative emotions and stress you’re feeling.

Reach out for support

Our fifth and final tip is to seek support. There is no shame in reaching out to others for help – this may be a friend, colleague, family member or professional. Talking through your struggles and stressors can be a useful way to reflect on how you’re feeling, and a problem shared is often a problem halved. Others may be able to offer advice or practical support with things like household chores if you’re finding it difficult.

Speaking about your bereavement can also be a good way to remember a loved one, or to feel connected to their memory. You may not want advice or guidance, you may just want someone to listen and that’s perfectly okay.

Open up and don’t be afraid to ask for the help that you need.

Our thoughts go to all those experiencing grief and loss this Christmas. We have a range of resources available on our website which may be helpful, which also contains links to other organisations that may be able to support you further.