See our Helpline opening hours over Christmas

When you are grieving, the holiday season, with its big build-up in the shops and in the media, can feel like a painful reminder of your loss and how much you are missing the person who has died.  

Whilst there is no right or wrong way to manage a special occasion when you are grieving, what matters is that you are able to do what feels right for you and your family at this difficult time.

Be gentle on yourself

Many families we support tell us that the build-up to Christmas can often feel worse than the day itself. Recognise that special occasions can be stressful anyway, but even more difficult when you are bereaved. Try not to put yourself under undue stress or pressure, or to feel that everything has to be 'perfect' - there are no rules and shortcuts, such as in preparing a meal, are absolutely fine! You may of course feel you have to be there for other family members, but making time for yourself is very important too.

Do what feels right for you

There’s no wrong or right way to mark a special occasion like Christmas. Don’t feel you need to stick to a plan or conform to what other people expect of you or what they are doing. It's OK to say no if you don't feel like doing certain things and if you want to just curl up on the sofa then that's OK too!

Caroline, pictured below, shares how she and her husband Phil have marked Christmas since her son Fraser died. You can read her story here.

Caroline is pictured holding up a photograph of her later son Fraser stood proudly next to his Christmas tree

Fraser loved Christmas and enjoyed giving presents. It’s important now that I decorate his room the same way he did every Christmas.

- Caroline, whose son Fraser died when he was 18

Make new traditions

Some families we support tell us that they get comfort from creating their own new family traditions at Christmas, for example by doing something creative together, taking part in fun activities, or just taking time out to remember the person who has died.

Remember the person who has died

Families tell us that doing something in memory of their special person can be a good way to mark an occasion. For example, where possible, you could include their favourite things to eat, look at photos, raise a special toast to remember them, light a candle, hang a new decoration on the tree, or go for a walk or visit a place that they loved or that reminds you of them.

Include any children

If there are children in the family, try to include them in any decision making and plans; children find comfort in routines and sharing special times with others. It can also help them express their feelings if you are able to ask for their ideas, for instance on how they would like to remember their special person.

Give yourself permission to do things you enjoy

Don’t feel guilty about not always feeling sad and sometimes enjoying a special occasion - it doesn't mean you are not grieving or that your connection with the person is less in any way.

For support, guidance, and information about the support we offer, call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40