Grief at Christmas
Updated: Jan 2, 2022
By Alice Spencer
As Christmas approaches, I am taken back to memories of childhood. An evening spent dressing the tree in a costume of golden baubles and matching lights. My Mum played the Christmas songs on loop, whilst my sisters and I draped it in ribbons of red. It stood in the living room big and bold, its branches stretched out across the walls and the smell of fresh pine drifted through the house.
This is just one of the memories that comes to mind as Christmas approaches. Christmas is my least favourite holiday of the year which is a complete 360 turnaround compared to before my Mum died. I am not a scrooge, I will still organise Christmas film nights and love spending time with my family, but it feels emptier to me, it feels hollow.
As we come towards the end of what has been an unpredictable, traumatic, and unnerving year, we are met with Christmas. A celebration which may feel like needed respite for some or intrusive and uncomfortable for others. Over the course of the year, uncountable losses have been felt, including those who have already lost, and I wanted to spend some time on how our grief might manifest and feel throughout the Christmas period. As it might not look or feel how expected.
It might look like:
- Visiting the grave and laying a gift, a card, or maybe even decorating it to look Christmassy.
- Going for a walk and spending time thinking about your loved one or talking to them.
- Looking through old photographs and reminiscing.
- Speaking about your loved one to a trusted friend, family members or your therapist.
- Being creative, journaling, writing a poem or creating a piece of art.
- Crying and allowing yourself to feel some of the uncomfortable emotions that come up for you.
- Wanting to spend more time than usual on your own, where you can reflect and just be.
- Surrounding yourself with people and immersing yourself into conversation and activities.
- Enjoying yourself but finding that they pop into your head at the most random times, like when you wrap presents or pour the gravy on your dinner.
- Feeling happy and appreciating those that you still have around you.
It might look like many different things and it is completely possible and 100% normal if none of the above resonates with you. We all feel it differently because we have had different experiences and process uniquely. I thought it would be helpful to share other people’s perspectives, so I reached out to those around me who had experienced loss, to share what comes up for them during this time.
‘Christmas can sometimes feel empty, especially now where my Dad can’t meet my daughter.’ – Tia Spencer, 24
‘Even though my Mum died nearly 19 years ago, Christmas is still shrouded in quiet grief in my family. The grief is unspoken and unacknowledged but its still there, all these years later and probably always will be. I have always hoped that one day we will be strong enough to acknowledge it and spend some time over Christmas sharing memories about my Mum, maybe next year.’ – Helen Moore-Start, 31
‘Christmas can be really difficult when you have lost someone. Grief can be more intense, personal, and secret at Christmas; it can seem even more like no one else understands.’ – Peter March, 63
‘Christmas is a happy time for most however my mind instantly turns to those I have lost and how this season brings me sorrow. With every unshed tear, I concentrate on all the joy we shared when you were here. That is what I’ll remember until we meet again. – Anonymous
‘His presence is in all the rituals of Christmas. I remember his jokey presents and karaoke singing. They made the day brighter and full.’ – Tilly Lenton, 26
I still really enjoy Christmas, my Mum loved it, so how can I not? It feels like I have all the pieces of the puzzle, but the colours are a little faded.’ – Louise Whittaker, 32
When reading these experiences, I felt connected, as if some of my pain or process is shared and understood. I hope reading these is helpful and brings you some comfort in knowing that the thoughts or emotions you have, are normal and okay.
Be kind to yourself this Christmas, give yourself time out if you need it, or reach out to people if you need support. And to those, who haven’t lost someone but know someone who has, check in with them. Send a text, give them a quick call, or plan a meet up, these gestures can go a long way for someone who is having a tough time.
And lastly, Merry Christmas to you all, you are doing superbly!