Grief during Christmas


Each year, there are many days to remember such as holidays, special occasions and events. These days are often surrounded in hype, festivities and celebration. They also surface a lot of memories of moments shared with family and friends.

That’s why the saying rings true… we do not remember days, we remember moments.

That’s why Christmas can magnify your sense of loss and mourning. The festive season can be particularly tough. Traditions that were once celebrated are now just unhappy reminders that your loved one is no longer with you.

“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen. Unheard. But always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.” 

Family gatherings and events can be painful reminders of the absence of a loved one. 

At the same time, they can also be comforting rituals where you spend time with family and friends, focusing on good memories and trying to recapture your sense of joy. 

We all deal with grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve when you’ve experienced loss. During the holiday season you may find yourself reacting in unexpected ways. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to make it just dealing with grief over the holidays much easier on yourself.

Only do what feels right

It's up to you to decide which activities, traditions or events you can handle. Don't feel obligated to participate in anything that doesn't feel doable. Grieving takes time. 

Accept your feelings 

Everyone takes his or her own path in grief and mourning. Some may try to avoid sad feelings, others will be bathed in tears. 

Some feel bad that they aren't up for enjoying a holiday, others feel guilt because they are feeling joy. 

However you feel, accept it. And accept the inevitable ups and downs. You may feel peaceful one moment and gut-wrenchingly sad the next. 

Call on family and friends

Talk with loved ones about your emotions. Be honest about how you'd like to do things this year – if you want to talk about those who have passed, then do so. 

Take a friend to events for support and create an escape plan together in case you need to bow out quickly. 

Read books about getting through the holidays after loss and seek out support groups and professional support. 

Focus on the kids

Many holidays place special attention on children, and it often helps to focus on their needs. Realise that your choices around getting through the holidays may affect the children in your family. 

If you withdraw, they may not understand why you don't want to join family festivities.

Perhaps you can participate in the family rituals or gatherings that are most important to the kids, and excuse yourself when you reach your limit.


It's amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others. Gift-giving can be a tremendous aid in overpowering the grief because it gives you a sense of emotional relief. 

When you provide someone with a gift they want or need, their happy feelings will inadvertently transfer over to you, helping you both celebrate the holidays together. 

Even though it can be difficult to think of gift buying and giving following the death of a loved one, it can also be an effective distraction from the negative emotions surrounding you.

Start new traditions

Keeping up the traditions that you used to enjoy with your loved may be too much of a painful reminder. Starting new traditions with friends and family can help you through your grief and give you something positive to focus on.

Acknowledge those who have passed on

When we are grieving a loss of someone very close to us, it can be helpful to participate in a related holiday ritual in his or her memory. For example, light a candle for them, talk about them, buy children’s toys or books to donate in their name, plant a tree or place an item of theirs among your Christmas decorations.

Provide support to those grieving 

For those that have a family member or friend going through the stages of grief, there are ways for you to help them get through this difficult time of year.

  • Being social can be hard - Social situations for a grieving person can be especially tough during the holiday season, the last thing they may feel like doing is being jolly and bright. Invite them to get togethers but understand that it may just be too hard for them to attend. Remember that dealing with loss doesn’t always get easier, so don’t expect them to be fine if this isn’t their first year without their loved one.
  • Acknowledge their loved one - Write a heartfelt card or make a donation in the loved one’s memory. Acknowledging those we have lost, helps to keep them near to us and your friend or family member may need that at Christmas.
  • Ask how you can help get them through the holidays - Having open conversations with a family or friend who are going the stages are grief can be hard and overwhelming. But it may be just what they need. Ask them what you can do to help them at Christmas and honour whatever decisions they make for the day.

Even though it can be difficult to imagine the festive season without your loved one, life does go on. 

Time helps heal grief and mourning, and we at Mareena Purslowe Funerals hope these suggestions can help simplify the process, making this holiday season that much more bearable. And hopefully, even enjoyable. 

Please feel free to get in touch with our team if you have any questions. If you’d would like further information on grief either for yourself or a loved one, please visit My Grief Assist.