Christmas can be a tough time of year for so many people, for so many reasons. Although I personally love Christmas and over the last few years have really tried to embrace it more than ever before, I’m very aware that that’s not the case for everyone. Grief in particular can play a huge role in how you feel at Christmas.

Photo by Melnychuk Nataliya on Unsplash

This is the second Christmas without my Granddad and it still feels weird. I’ve lost all my Grandparents so Christmas is definitely a time where we feel that loss even more than before. I’m thrilled to host this incredible post from Kayleigh on my blog today, all about how to deal with grief at Christmas. I know that a lot of people will sadly be able to relate but I hope (and I’m sure it will) give you some helpful advice on how to deal with grief this Christmas:

A guest post from Kayleigh Zara:

Hi everyone, it’s Kayleigh from Kayleigh Zara here today. Jenny kindly agreed to let me write a guest post for her for the festive season. Today, I’m here to talk to about something really close to my heart, dealing with grief and loss this Christmas time.

Dealing with loss during the festive season can be very hard, Christmas is a time for celebration and joy but it really is a difficult holiday to celebrate when someone you love is missing from the celebrations. Due to the pandemic there will be 50,000 more families this year experiencing grief at Christmas, so today I’ll be sharing my experience with losing someone at Christmas and some realistic tips for coping with grief during the festive season.

Three years ago, the day after boxing day I was awoken to a call to say that my dad had passed away. I was 22, it’s not a call you ever want to have and definitely not one that you think you’ll get in your 20s. Christmas since has been a very different experience for me. One thing I’ve always really struggled with is Christmas is a time for joy, and your grief suddenly becomes very public as you spend a lot of time with family, your partner or friends for weeks of celebration.

Because my dad’s death fell in-between Christmas and New Year’s, I dreaded the next Christmas. Previously Christmas had been an occasion I loved, and found so joyful. The first Christmas was hell, I tried my best to partake in occasions, go to Christmas parties, but all it would take was seeing a family photo at a friend’s house, or a Christmas advert on the TV to set me off. Being a blogger, I was unable to even produce Christmas content that year, and I made the decision to spend Christmas alone at my university house rather than returning home to be with my family.

It was potentially one of the worst decisions I made to isolate myself, but I learnt from it. I took the holiday period to do the small things that my dad really loved, such as taking long morning walks, watching re-runs of The Tudors and drinking brandy in all my coffees. I ignored it was Christmas and didn’t even put a Christmas tree up and I didn’t bother to decorate. Any gifts I received weren’t opened until mid-January.

This first Christmas without my dad taught me that really everyone deals with grief differently and there isn’t a right way to deal with grief throughout the festive period. For those who are dealing with grief or experiencing your first Christmas without a loved one here are some tips to help you through it:

Don’t allow other people to dictate what you should do/ how you should be feeling

When I started telling people my dad had died, I got a ton of unsolicited advice on how I should be feeling and what I should be doing. Christmas time is hard enough when you’re grieving, don’t feel like you need to feel a certain way or be doing something because someone tells you, you should.

Focusing on how you feel, and doing what’s right for you day to day is really important for the healing process.

Talk to your friends and family, and let them know how you feeling

Grieving isn’t a straight path, there may be days over the festive season where you feel better than others. By telling your friends and family what’s up, they’ll be able to accommodate how you feel, and support you if/when you need it. No one is a mind reader, and without vocalizing how you feel your friends and family really can’t help you.

Don’t feel bad about being upset

You might be unlucky enough to know people that will guilt you for experiencing grief during Christmas. These are the worst type of people, and feeling sad at time when you would have previously been with a loved one is very normal. You aren’t ruining the festive celebrations by feeling upset.

If things do start to feel too much for you, remember that you can contact The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. There is nothing to be ashamed about if you need someone to talk to.

Related read: My Experience With the Samaritans 

Don’t feel guilty about feeling happy

This is one I experienced last Christmas. I found myself genuinely enjoying the festivities and then I felt exceptionally guilty for it. You are allowed to feel moments of respite.

Take down time to reflect on the good times you had

When dealing with grief it can be really painful to take the time to remember the good times you experienced with the person you lost. It can feel really painful to think of the positive memories you have as you won’t be experiencing them the same way again. But, taking this time to remember them can be really enlightening.

I personally used this time to think about some of my favourite childhood memories with my dad, and this year me and my significant other will be doing a few of the activities I had previously done with my dad, such as making mulled wine together and watching Christmas movies on Christmas eve.

Take it day by day

When it comes to Christmas celebrations you might find that your calendar fills up quickly with festive plans. Like I mentioned above, grief really isn’t a straight path one day you might feel like watching Christmas movies with your friends and the next you might need time to yourself. The best way to cope with the pressure of Christmas is to take every day as it comes, and if you can’t attend an event or plan simply vocalize you are grieving and not up to it.

If you’re ready talk about your grief

Grief doesn’t have a finish line, it’s an ongoing feeling of love and loss. I personally find that the move you talk about someone, the easier it becomes. I try to talk about my dad with my family members yearly to remember him in the best ways possible.

You might not be ready to talk about it at first, and that is okay. It took me over 2 years before I was ready to openly have conversations about my dad.

I want to say a massive thank you to jenny for letting me chat about this subject, and for those experiencing grief this Christmas, I hope these tips might be helpful to you.

71 Comments

  1. Really needed this. I’ve lost so many people close to my heart over the years, Christmas becomes less exciting. This post gave me a new perspective.

    Is it alright if I could feature/quote this post in my next post coming soon.

  2. (Just imo)Although, there are many good points here. You are missing the other side of the same coin. The pain, suffering, and dark ‘negative’ feelings and thoughts one feels is something that must be truly accounted for. We learn and grow through what seems like life draining experiences. One must remember the true teachers of existence lie within the positive catalysts and the negative catalysts.

  3. Thank you both for sharing this important post, this year will be first year without my granddad who passed away in May. Grief is never a sprint, its a marathon it just keeps coming back to make you sad, upset or angry. Your trips are great to get through this festive time

  4. It is inspiring to be with people I can be open around. Real friends and family are the ones who share my difficulties as well as my joys so I love the tips here about opening up and not feeling guilty for having feelings! 🙂

  5. I find Christmas hard too. Two years ago we were announcing that we were 16 weeks pregnant with our 3rd baby. Last year I spent Christmas with my in laws and not one of them acknowledged the pain I felt that we didn’t have a 6 month old terrorising our sleep. It’s going to be tough going all the way through to the end of January when we get to his birthday. Somehow the prospect of Christmas in private, without having to put on a brave face for my in laws’ in laws, is comforting and less stressful.

      1. I’m not sure if we’re preprogrammed due to all the advertising over the years or our friends and relatives talking about Christmas past. for me personally, I miss everyone who has gone and it is worse at Christmas. So, yeah it’s weird. lol

  6. This is such a relevant topic right now, Kayleigh and Jenny. It’s 3 years for me also since I lost my mum and it’ll be 20 years next year since I lost my dad. I need to learn that it’s okay to be upset especially at this time of year. Hope everyone who is struggling will be okay! x

    Daisy xoxo | AccordingToDaisy

  7. This post is absolutely spot on. I love this time of year but I can already feel that sense of dread about it as well.

    I am really bad about talking in real life about how I feel, I bury it and then feel worse for it later. It is so difficult at any important date but this advice carries for all of those times.

    Kayleigh, I am so very sorry for your loss, sending you love this Christmas x x

  8. Lovely post, thanks for sharing. I lost my mom when I was 14 and her birthday is actually december 22. She would always make christmas so exciting and joyful but now, I just treat christmas as a regular day. I don’t feel the excitement I used to feel anymore, I don’t even force myself to get into the ‘christmas spirit’. I’m 19 now and just neutral to the holidays now, the most me and my family do on the day is a simply family dinner, no decorations or anytime. She would at least want us to have a nice dinner lol.

  9. A lovely post — very moving and helpful. I know that this time of year is so hard for many people and with everything that 2020 has thrown as us collectively, not to mention the individual, personal things that have gone in people’s lives that, it’s all been that much more difficult. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Lovely post Jennywise/Kayleigh – so important to remember those who are grieving at Christmas; especially this year where we’re likely to have experienced loss somewhere whether it’s family, friends or just people you know. Sorry to hear about your own individual losses but great that you can reach out to people and offer advice based on your own experiences. Christmas is a time for so many great things but also to remember spending time with loved ones.

  11. Thank you so much Jenny and Kayleigh for this post. I have very mixed feelings this holiday season after losing my grandad last month and these tips will certainly help me get through the next few weeks.

  12. For personal reasons that I can’t elaborate on, this blog post hits so close to home for me. It is strange when the festive season becomes bittersweet, and I do not know whether Christmas will ever feel the same as it used to for me. Thanks for sharing these tips to deal with grief on Christmas. Thoughts and prayers to Kayleigh, Kayleigh’s family, and anyone else who experiences grief of any sort this festive season.

  13. Thank you for sharing this, the tips are so helpful. I lost my mum around Christmas time and there’s really no right or wrong way to grieve or to deal with Christmas. You’ve just got to let your feelings work themselves out and remember that whatever you’re feeling is okay!

  14. This post really hit home for me. I’d never had to deal with grief until 2020, like many others I lost an elderly family member this year. I’m not going home for Christmas, and haven’t been able to spend time with my family to grieve together. A really pivotal moment for me was when I received some jewellery left for me by the family member who passed. I haven’t been able to wear it, or even look at it. Maybe one day I will wear it, but as Kayleigh said, we all cope with grief in our own ways. I am so sorry that you lost your father Kayleigh, and completely understand that this time of year is hard for you. xxx

    1. Oh I’m so sorry for your loss Emily. It will get easier and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to cope. One day you’ll be able to wear that piece of jewellery with ease but until then, do what you gotta do xxxx

  15. Wow, this was such a beautifully written post. I’m so sorry for your loss, Kayleigh. You’re right, you never expect to lose a parent when you’re so young (I lost my mum when I was 21). The bit about feeling guilty for feeling happy really resonates with me but you’re right, We’re entitled to enjoy the good times. And your comment, “Grief doesn’t have a finish line,” is one I’m going to print out and stick in my journal. It’s just spot on. Thank you for sharing these tips, it will be a huge help to many people, I’m sure xxx

  16. Thank you for sharing this subject, its not something people like to talk about. Sorry for your loss Kayleigh, your dad would be so proud of you. I lost my mum and dad when I was 26 and the last ten years have been a blur. I relate to the things you mentioned, the first time I caught myself laughing I had so much guilt. I was supposed to cry, not laugh! Last Christmas we went to see my grandma and it quickly became apparent she had dementia, we hadn’t realised until then. It can be difficult to have Christmas without those you love with you.

  17. Thanks for sharing this. My husband lost his father 21 years ago right before Christmas, 3 years ago right before Thanksgiving, my grandmother passed and just this year days before her birthday and Thanksgiving we lost my Mom in Law, who lived with us. I was her primary caregiver. It has been hard, even more so with everything else going on.
    I pray for peace and good memories to all who are struggling this year without a loved one here this Christmas.

    http://Www.findingthefearlesslife.com

    ~Amy

  18. These are some really helpful tips. Christmas time brings out grief even more because it really shows when someone is missing. My partner lost his mum just before Christmas and his dad just after so its definitely a tricky time of year in our house. I completely agree that talking helps so much, even if it can’t take the pain away.

  19. These are some fab tips. So sorry for your loss. I think one of the biggest things is the guilt you can feel if you are happy for a period of time.

    Tash – A Girl with a View

  20. A lovely post, I find Christmas hard with my Grandma’s Alzheimer’s. It’s only as I’ve got older I’ve started to understand grief takes on different shapes through death or just not having someone in your life anymore ❤️

  21. I find it hard sometimes around the holidays because those are the times where you want your loved ones around you. I think its important to still make it feel like they’re involved in some way, so that you can continue celebrating the holidays with them even though they aren’t there in person. 💛

    Olivia | https://olivialucieblake.com

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