Coping with grief at Christmas.

Last year was the first time I had been touched with grief. I mean really touched with grief. This year, inevitably it seems, has been no different.

I remember reading about grief during the holidays in 2019 and wondering would it ever get easier. This year, after losing yet another grandparent in early December, I’ve come to realise that grief never gets easier, it just changes.

This year so many will be grieving for various things in life from the loss of loved ones to the loneliness of spending Christmas alone due to COVID-19. With that in mind, I’d like to discuss grief and how to cope during the holiday period.


Grief is okay, even at Christmas.

One. It’s okay for your grief rituals to change over time.

Last year was the first time I had been touched with grief. I mean really touched with grief. This year, inevitably it seems, has been no different. Thus our Christmas tree is once again spending it’s holiday season in the attic.

You see, when someone dies, whether it is close to the season or not, we choose not to put up a Christmas tree. It’s either a mark of respect for the fact that it’s too painful a reminder of what we’ve lost. No matter, it suits me just fine. I’m not one for Christmas anyway. But that doesn’t mean that my rituals for dealing with grief will always remain the same. Even the more regular, traditional method of booking off work during the anniversary of their death may change over time. It might become easier for me to be among people on the anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life as opposed to hiding. I might even prefer it.

Everyone’s grieving rituals, including their holiday themed ones, are entitled to change just as we as humans are entitled to change.

Two. It’s okay to still buy gifts and write cards to your loved ones.

I still find myself writing letters to my grandmother despite the fact that she’ll never read them. Although I haven’t had the courage to burn them (which is considered an act of cleansing and sending letters to heaven), I keep them all safely in my memory box.

Even when our loved ones are gone it’s okay to buy them gifts or items you know they would have liked. It’s also okay to write them Christmas cards, letters and even send texts to their old mobile number. If they still have an active voice mail or you have old videos of them, it’s also okay to listen to their voice for comfort. Although it can be heart wrenching and difficult, it’s okay to let yourself feel those emotions from time to time, even during the ‘happiest time of the year.’

Three. It’s okay to find different ways of celebrating.

You don’t have to put up your tree or sit down to dinner. Nor do you have to follow the same old traditions passed down through generations. Although some people may find it comforting to act out rituals from years gone by, others might find it too difficult due to the absence of loved ones.

This year (2020) will go down as one of the strangest and most confusing years in our lifetime. Many families will be separated from loved ones during the holidays due to lockdown, travel restrictions and some may even have lost loved ones throughout the year. No matter your circumstances, there’s no denying that Christmas is going to be very different.

While you may be grieving for what you’ve lost this year, it might also be a good opportunity to practice different traditions. Perhaps you could video call with your loved ones over lunch, visit the grave of a relative and place a wreath, or arrange a Christmas quiz night for all the family!

Christmas doesn’t have to be about a tree or presents or joyfulness. It can just be like any other day but with chocolate for breakfast.

Want to know more ways you can cope with grief this Christmas? Check out this post from Jenny in Neverland.

Four. It’s okay to cry but also try to remember the happy times spent with your loved one.

All the adverts and songs glorify Christmas as a happy time of year. We must sing, we must eat, drink and be merry. But it’s also okay to cry. It’s perfectly fine to reminisce of happier times with those we loved and cry for the pain of losing them. Even years later it’s still fine to cry for a grandparent, a parent, a sibling or even a late pet.

But, as difficult as it might seem, it’s also important to remember all the good times and the holidays gone by. I can recall many heartwarming stories of my grandparents at Christmas. From my late grandmother mixing up the Christmas gifts, to the millennium spent celebrating in my late grandfather’s shed, I have so many great memories to bring a smile to my face.

Five. It’s okay to open up and talk to someone.

I always find that being open and honest about your grief is the best policy. The fact is that many people have experienced grief in some shape or form. Grief is something that even the toughest of tough aren’t exempt from.

If you find yourself lonely or struggling on Christmas, why not reach out to a friend or family member for support? If you’d rather speak with someone in confidence, there are a variety of helplines available and online sources available, even on Christmas.

Cruse is just one such charity that can help you cope with bereavement, especially during the holidays. If you’re finding it difficult and just want someone to listen, give them a call on 0808 808 1677 (check here for opening hours).


Grieving before bereavement.

Grief isn’t always limited to the physical loss of a person. Nor is it necessarily limited to bereavement itself. There are a variety of reasons why we might not feel much like celebrating such as you or a loved one battling a chronic illness, dementia, deployment, or simply being away from home during the holiday period.

It’s perfectly okay to grieve for your loss, no matter what that may be. Everyone’s grief is valid!

61 comments

  1. I hadn’t read this one. It is really beautiful. We all have lost loved ones and we miss them even more during Christmas. Grief as you said never stops, just changes over time. Wonderful tgoughts shared here.

  2. 6th anniversary of losing my nan today which drew me to this blog. I had a trauma at new year as well and I choose to shut down and focus on keeping myself safe as it is the only way for me to get through when other people can’t wait to drink the new year in and think you will want to as well. Thanks for this blog

  3. I am still very much living every one of these feelings. It is so hard to know how to feel and act if I am honest.

    This post captures that beautifully. It is such a tough time. Sending love this Christmas x x

  4. The holidays sure can be hard on some of us too. I lost a few grandparents right before the holidays and it can be really tough. I’m so glad you shared this with us.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so hard to deal with death, especially during the holidays.

  6. Both my grandfather and my dad died in December and my mom’s birthday was in December too. This has been a hard month!

  7. This year is completely different from any others. We are celebrating differently. I’m hoping to do a few video calls.

  8. I really love this. I think the biggest takeaway here is that it’s okay. The holidays can make any kind of mental health strain or loss feel so much worse. It’s all about mitigating it and finding a way to make it work for you.

  9. The holidays always make me feel sad. I’m not even sure why. I guess I miss my grandparents. And this year my parents can’t come up from Florida because of Covid. And one of my dogs hasn’t been doing well. I’m just kind of ready for it to be over.

  10. Thank you so much for your comment. It’s so hard, especially losing someone on the mouth or day of Christmas.
    Sending you much love. x

  11. Grief is very difficult especially during the holidays. my ex-husband lost his brother on christmas eve and then his mother a year later on christmas eve as well so it’s tough every year. A lot of times you have to fill your mind with the good and fun times , but it’s only normal to feel a sad.

  12. It’s so important to remember, as you say, that grief is OK. No matter how long ago the passing of a person was, Christmas is often the most difficult time. I try to explain to my family that collective grieving is better than grieving alone, even at celebtraions. xxx

  13. My aunt once said to me “without great love there wouldn’t be great loss” and it’s so true. If we didn’t feel sad and grief then we wouldn’t feel love. It’s the price we pay.
    Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. x

  14. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. It’s so difficult. This is my first year coping with loss.
    Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.

  15. We had a couple of losses in the family this year, it’s always tough when we get together for the holidays. Happy and sad at the same time.

  16. We all grief in different ways… mine comes in different way depending on how close i am with the person i lost. The first time i witnessed the death of someone was my cousin but i never know what it meant for someone to be dead, i was 4 year old then, another was when i was 8 years old but them i knew what death was and the fact that i couldn’t see how again, i have lost two of my best friend which up till now i haven’t gotten over it but i have come to the realization that death is the price we all have to pay one day and that how i cop with my own grief even though it doesn’t make it hurt less.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this intimate story and I truly appreciate it as this time of year can her very hard when ur love ones are no longer with us. This is our first Christmas without my grandmother so it is super hard for my mom.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear this. I feel the same and I beat myself up for years when they may not have been handled well. I fear Christmas will never have a positive association for me.
    Thank you for stopping in and reading.

  19. I still bring out the cards my grandmother has gotten me in years gone by. They serve as a constant reminder that she is with me always.
    Sending you lots of love.

  20. Thank you so much for reading. It can be so hard for those of us with no one or with toxic families that only serve to make things worse.
    Sending you lots of peace this season.

  21. I HATE new years with a passion. It hits me so, so hard and I just hate it.
    I hope you have an okay festive season regardless. Sending you peace and love. x

  22. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. It’s so important to remember the grieving this year at Christmas, and there appears to be so, so many of us.

  23. I’m the same. I hate this whole “cheer up, it’s Christmas” mentality. Even before the death of my grandparents, I hated Christmas. I worked in retail for years. It’s NOT happy for everyone.

  24. I’m so sorry for your loss. 2019 has been one full of death for me and therefore this will be a very, very difficult year for me. I’m grateful that Ruth took the time to write this article because I don’t think I could have held myself together long enough to get it done.

    I hope Christmas this year isn’t too bad for you, despite everything. Thank you for stopping in and reading. x

  25. Wow, this hit me hard! My grandmother died About 10 years ago, two days after my birthday, on Nov. 5th. My grandpa died a little more than a month later on Dec. 24th. Needless to say I can totally relate, although it really didn’t occur to me Until I read this, that I was still grieving. Thanks for this post, it made me feel better somehow

  26. Christmas is a really difficult time especially when the loved one is lost near Christmas! It affects us in such strange ways x

  27. I’m not a fan of the societal expectation to be happy at Christmas, no matter what. We all deserve to be able to grieve, no matter what time of year it is!

  28. Unfortunately, I have experienced a lot of loss in my life so I can definitely relate to the different stages and levels of grief and one thing I’ve learned is that everyone mourns differently so it’s important to recognize this.

  29. The holidays are very lonely without loved ones. I’ve lost family as well and miss them to this day, especially around the holidays. Having help coping with grief is needed.

  30. My grandpa passed away 28 years ago. I miss him all the time, but the grief has turned to fond memories now. He was one of the most kind people I have ever met.
    I said a prayer for all of you above that are experiencing grief this season. May you find some peace!
    I love the ideas in this post about ways to minister to others that are dealing with grief. I would like to do something, but maybe not just for Christmas.

  31. It’s hard to deal with grief, especially during the holidays. The cards for an example are a great ways to cope ❤️❤️❤️

  32. Grief is such a difficult thing to deal with, but pair it with the Holidays, and it goes to a whole new level. It’s important to be mindful of those who are struggling with grief, especially this time of the year

  33. Christmas is a very nostalgic time for me and unfortunately that means remember times when my grandparents were alive, making me miss them terribly. My grandma was one of my best friends and my grandpa was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known. This year in particular has been a struggle even though they’ve been gone for several years.

    When I feel this way I like to surround myself with family, especially my nephew, who I see my grandparents in so much.

  34. The loss of a loved one is horrible, but more so during the holiday season. I lost my brother unexpectedly 4 years ago, and although time passes so quickly, it still feels like it was yesterday. Grief is something everyone has to go through, whether its a young child loosing their pet goldfish or anyone leaving a loved one. To me, the greatest comfort is, I know my loved ones are still with me, not only in my heart but in spirit as well.

  35. Wow, thank you for sharing. It is true. I havent had big grief around Christmas, but being alone for it, away from family, it is really hard. O cant imagine what it will be later….

  36. I’m sending you so much love. I’m dreading it so much. I’ve never experienced grief like this before so it’s new territory. xx

  37. I’m in the same boat. I lost my grandfather and grandmother this year so it’s going to be very hard. Sending much love to you and your family.

  38. This will be a tough Christmas for us since Nana Jo passed away. I know it’ll be particularly hard on my mom, who lost HER mom, so I am working hard to be sure I’m there for sure.

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