Remembering those who have died at Christmas | Christmas memories and grief

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Kate Mitchell, 01 December 2020

Kate is Communications and Content Manager at Cruse Bereavement Care

Christmas can be a really difficult time if someone close to you has died. Nothing can make up for not having someone special with you. 

It can be tempting to try and avoid the pain by avoiding things which bring sad thoughts and memories. This is difficult at Christmas time as we are bombarded by reminders, but you shouldn’t feel pressured into celebrating when you are not ready. On the other hand, many people do find ways to mark Christmas in a way which is special for them and for the person who has died.

It’s important that what you do has meaning for you and those close to you. Here are some suggestions that other bereaved people have told us can help.

Ways to remember someone at Christmas

Remember them in your home

If you are someone who likes to decorate for Christmas, there are ways you can make your relative or friend part of that. Some people like to light a special candle near a picture of their loved one. Or you could hang something of theirs on the Christmas tree, or hang up a decoration including their name or picture.

If you look online there are lots of places offering personalised decorations to buy, or you could have a go at making one yourself.

Include them in the giving

It might feel strange but there is no reason why you shouldn’t buy a present or write a card to someone who has died, if it feels right for you. Or you could buy a gift on their behalf for a cause or charity they supported. 

You are important too – it’s fine to buy yourself something you know they would want you to have. If you’ve lost a partner and have young children, they might need help to buy a present for you, so you might want to ask a friend or other relative to help them.

Do something that they would have enjoyed

Another way to remember someone is to do something you know they would have enjoyed. You might like to get together with friends or family (taking into account current social distancing rules) and watch their favourite film, or listen to some Christmas music you know they liked. Or you could go on a walk to somewhere that has meaning for you all.

Share your memories

Talking about someone who has died can be comforting. If you are meeting with friends and family at Christmas it can be a really nice time to take it in turns to share a memory or story about the person you’ve lost.

Take some time out

Christmas can be a very busy and frantic time for some people. It’s fine to take some time out for yourself. If you can get away from everything for an hour or so to just be with your own thoughts of the people you are missing. Or it's fine to distract yourself with a book, film, or exercise. It can give you a boost of strength before you get back into the fray.

Or perhaps you are on your own, with a seemingly endless stream of happy family pictures on the TV, radio and social media. Again it can help to take a ‘Christmas break’ and do something completely different. You can call the Cruse helpline if you are struggling alone with thoughts of someone who has died.

Leave a yellow heart to remember

This Christmas, we’re inviting people to leave a personalised message in a sea of yellow hearts to remember a loved one. Find out more

Christmas can be a very busy and frantic time for some people. It’s fine to take some time out for yourself to remember those you have lost. 

Christmas can be a time to focus on memories of good times, but it can also be an intensely emotional time. Be kind to yourself and ask for help if you need it.


If you’re struggling this Christmas after someone close to you has died we’re here to help. You can contact our helpline or speak with a trained grief counsellor using our chat service.