Coping at Christmas

Christmas can be a painful time whether it’s your first year without someone who has died, or you were bereaved long ago.

We know that facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect. One of the things that can help can be to spend some time trying to work out, well in advance, which arrangements will best suit your needs and the needs of others who share your loss.

Whether to celebrate

Some bereaved people find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all, whilst some find that simply maintaining their routine and celebrating as normal is the best tribute they can pay their loved one. It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, or it may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family. You may have photos or particular memories which you treasure; sharing these with others may be something that brings you together.

Different ways of mourning

We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and to talk openly about what will be best for you.

Routine and self-care

The Christmas period may mean that your normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself. Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. We can all drink more on festive occasions, but it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.

Memories of time passed

As time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us to begin to focus on happier memories of good times shared in the past. However they can also be difficult, intensely emotional times when we need to look after ourselves and those around us.


Compassionate Friends have a useful guide on coping at Christmas for parents who have lost a child

Kate Ibbeson talks about the first Christmas without her parents at the Dying Matters blog

Other Cruse information

Coping with anniversaries and special occasions

Information about Bereavement

Helping someone who is grieving

Supporting a child who is grieving

Grieving as a family

Coping with a major personal crisis


Local services

Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland our trained bereavement volunteer offer support to adults and children, face-to-face, in groups or by telephone and email. 

National helpline

The Cruse Bereavement Care National Helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support by telephone or by email. Call freephone 0808 808 1677.

Our stories

Read stories from those we have helped, and from our volunteers.