Christmas without someone we love

Monday, December 18th, 2023

There are many reasons why we may feel loss at Christmas.

Bereavement, separation, children growing up, sharing Christmas with in-laws, friends moved away, memories of a lockdown Christmas, living abroad, family breakdown, feeling the absence of the lifestyle that you want and loneliness can bring difficult thoughts and emotions.

Whether you are facing the first year or the 10th year in this situation, we know that the countdown to Christmas Day can be hard and the pressure to be happy can come from all directions. Here are some ideas to navigate the festive period:

  1. Assure yourself that your feelings are valid, grief is a natural response to losing someone close or something you held dear.
  2. Talk to someone about how you feel. Sharing with trusted friend or family member, or speaking confidentially to a support helpline or professional can help.
  3. Allow yourself permission to take part in Christmas traditions, if you wish to. This does not mean you don’t care about or have forgotten the person who is absent.
  4. Activities such as writing a message on a memory tree or lighting a candle can help acknowledge the person who is absent. Bereavement charities, places of worship and places of rest often offer such opportunities, but you can also introduce an initiative at work or social place.
  5. Planning an activity/meal/tradition that you remember being important to the absent person(s) can help make them part of your Christmas.
  6. Take time to think about what is important for you over the festive period. Don’t be drawn in by the expectations shown in Christmas adverts – this not the reality for most people.
  7. Don’t be frightened to accept invitations from friends and family through fear of not being able to keep up the pretence. Have a realistic conversation about how you feel beforehand. It is better to say ‘I would love to have dinner with you but I might find the whole day difficult’ or ‘I may be tearful at some point but I am ok’.
  8. Plan a new tradition or completely different way to mark the occasion if the usual traditions feel empty without the person(s). This might especially be useful if it is your first Christmas post-separation or without your children/grandchildren. For example, eating different food, changing the routine of the day, visiting someone/eating out instead of being at home.

You can also take a look at some of our articles on Christmas Sanctuary for further support, such as:

Tips for separated parents at Christmas time

Long-distance relationships

How to decide who’s family to spend Christmas with

Working with inter-cultural relationships