Combating Grief at Christmas

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Health Assured team

30 November 2023

Dealing with grief at Christmas can be draining, confusing, and overwhelming at best. Constant reminders of the cheery public celebrations and it feels as though you may not have room to properly grieve.

Grief during special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas can be painful as you notice a person missing. It becomes something to endure rather than enjoy and a heartbreaking reminder of your loved one. 

It may feel as though you want to cancel Christmas altogether. Feelings of guilt can arise as you proceed with the festive season without them.

These are all normal reactions when coping with a bereavement through the busy Christmas period and it is essential to look after your mental health before you turn on the Christmas cheer.

Ways to cope with grief at Christmas

  1. Don’t put pressure on yourself.

It is easy to get swept away in the Christmas festivities and say yes to everything on offer. Especially if you feel the need to distract yourself. However, it is best not to overcommit yourself if you are coping with the loss of someone special.

Overcommitting can become overwhelming and delay taking care of your mental health during a difficult time.

Yes, it is positive to go out and enjoy the festive season with friends and family, yet healthy boundaries are needed to give yourself the peace and headspace to overcome bereavement.

First Christmases are especially painful, and it is important to recognise that you will need to allow yourself the time to overcome the grief and that is okay.

  1. Don’t cancel Christmas

Finding time for yourself does not mean that you need to cancel Christmas. In fact, it is a good idea to comfortably embrace Christmas at your own pace.

This could be something as small as having a few close family members over for Christmas day or going out for a mulled wine with a close friend after work. You should not feel guilty for having fun over the Christmas period because a loved one is no longer there.

Stick to what feels manageable to you and always consider your feelings first. Note your emotions day to do and make sure you are secure enough to celebrate. If you aren’t that is okay.

It is also reasonable to allow other family members to celebrate Christmas. Accept that others may have different ways of grieving and everyone’s bereavement process should be respected.

  1. Be prepared for unpredictable feelings and emotions

Dealing with grief is unique to everyone and feelings and emotions can be unpredictable.

Have an action plan if you feel as though you are becoming overwhelmed. Most people will understand why you have to leave the Christmas drinks early or if you can’t make it to your aunt’s Boxing Day lunch. Especially if they know what you are coping with but do not feel as though you have to explain yourself.

Be kind to yourself when you do have unpredictable feelings and emotions, it is totally normal and part of the grieving process.

  1. Celebrate your loved one

Celebrating your loved one at Christmas can be a great way of relieving the guilt and incorporates them into your Christmas celebrations.

Here are some ways you can celebrate your loved on at Christmas:

  • Setting a place for them at the table
  • Playing their favourite Christmas game
  • Watching their favourite Christmas film
  • Relish in their favourite Christmas song or album
  • Make a Christmas decoration in their honour
  • Write a letter to them
  • Hang a Christmas stocking with their name
  • Plant a tree in their name
  1. Talk to Someone

Living with grief at Christmas can be lonely.

Make sure you are talking with trusted friends and family about how you are feeling.

Bereavement is easier to process when you have someone trusted to talk to and can support in feelings of loneliness.

It is especially significant to talk to those family members who are experiencing grief with you, but it is important to not push anyone to discuss their grief. They may not be as ready.

Talking with a counsellor can be liberating and offer new perspectives. Health Assured offers 24/7 counsellors online, over the phone, and in person when you need it the most. 

Support for your employee's mental health during the Christmas period

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and in life. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


Find out more about EAPs



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