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Coping with loss at Christmas

5 min read
09 December 2020

Christmas can be an especially difficult time for people if they have experienced a loss.

My brother passed away when I was 12 and since then I have found Christmas to be one of the hardest times of the year for a variety of reasons:

  • There is a lot more emphasis on spending time with friends and family, which can feel like a constant reminder that your loved one isn’t there.
  • It can bring back lots of memories from previous years when you celebrated Christmas with your loved one, which can be upsetting.
  • You don’t have the comfort of having a regular routine to follow and the same distractions as usual (e.g. school, work). A large amount of time doing not a lot can lead to overthinking more than usual.
  • There is a lot of emphasis on the ‘need’ to be happy during the holiday season. You almost develop a fear of becoming a Grinch if you don’t express the holiday spirit that many other people show, even if the last thing you want to do is to celebrate.
You almost develop a fear of becoming a Grinch if you don’t express the holiday spirit that many other people show, even if the last thing you want to do is to celebrate.

Tips for coping with loss at Christmas

So, what can we do to ease these feelings of loss at Christmas? Unfortunately, those feelings of grief will always be present in some respects, but there are things that you can do to make the holiday period that little bit easier:

  • Don’t feel like you have to celebrate Christmas the same way that you have done in previous years. Doing so can bring those memories you may have - and the hurt that can come with them - to the surface. It can be simple things such as eating a non-traditional meal or changing up the decorations in your house.
  • Try to find things that can distract you if you find yourself overthinking. This can be things such as zoom calls with friends, video games, arts and crafts - just anything that helps to positively distract your mind.
  • Set dedicated time away from festivities. The constant need to be ‘on’ during Christmas can be very tiring. It can be really helpful to set some time away from other people so you can just relax and allow yourself to rest and feel the emotions you need to feel. It’s okay to not be with people the whole of the Christmas period and just a small amount of time to recharge can be very beneficial.
  • If you find constant social media posts about Christmas can be triggering, don’t be afraid to mute certain words on social media. You can mute words on most platforms so you do not see content that has these words in. A break from social media can also be helpful as seeing posts of families and friends together can bring a lot of anger and sadness.
It’s okay to not be with people the whole of the Christmas period and just a small amount of time to recharge can be very beneficial.
  • Try to leave the house. Being cooped up in the house can make you feel a bit trapped with constant reminders of the person that you have lost. Although we may not be able to go out in the same ways as other years, trying to even just go on a walk can really help to clear your head. A change of scenery can help you to think about different things and exercise releases endorphins, which can boost your mood.
  • Allow yourself to feel emotions. The worst thing that you can do is to simply bottle up your emotions and try to put on a happy face because you think that is what people expect from you. Grief is a completely natural emotion. If you need to cry, allow yourself the time to cry. This also means you should allow yourself to remember the person you have lost. The temptation can be to try and forget about the person but sometimes it can be a good thing to talk about them and to think about memories from previous years. That person will always be there in your heart; you don’t need to stop talking about them just because it can seem morbid or make you upset.
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling. These emotions can be very new and unexpected. Talking to somebody who will listen to how you are feeling can help to put your thoughts into perspective and help you to feel that little bit better.
Grief is a completely natural emotion. If you need to cry, allow yourself the time to cry.

Christmas can definitely be hard if you’ve lost someone. It will never be the same as previous years, but it is also a chance to make new happy memories with those you love. It may be hard, but you can definitely make it through this period!

Where to get help

When you lose someone close to you, it’s natural to feel sad, depressed, worried or angry. Everyone reacts in their own way. We have lots of tips, advice and information on where to get support on our grief and loss page.

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