Managing with loss at Christmas time

Craig Alker - Counsellor

When we have experienced the death of a loved one, it is common and normal that we will experience a wide range of emotions.

This emotional journey will inevitably continue for some time, and even when things may feel they are becoming a little easier, many things can trigger a wave of grief. This could be a song, or a piece of music which may have been special or played at the funeral but at certain times in the year, can also have a huge impact upon us.

Occasions such as a loved one’s birthday, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can all be difficult and so too, of course, can Christmas. It’s not just Christmas Day itself – but the whole Christmas period when there are so many reminders.

When you are approaching an anniversary or event such as Christmas there can be a strong sense of feeling that loss again. During what can be a difficult time do what you need to do to make things as easy as possible for yourself.

Try to make sure you are around people with whom you can speak about the person you have lost and find ways to remember them. It might be an opportunity to celebrate them and the life you had together. Having a bit of space might be helpful but it can be equally helpful to be busy as well.

An important thing to remember is that on the day certain feelings may emerge but if you don’t end up feeling as bad as you thought you might then that’s not wrong; it’s OK to feel OK. I say to a lot of clients however you are feeling – it’s not wrong.

Be kind to yourself. A gentle self-compassionate gesture can be to notice how you are feeling without judging yourself. Place a hand on your chest, take a few comfortable breaths – notice the feeling and know that whatever the feeling is – it’s OK.

Although the first year without a loved one will be a difficult one, some people find that at times the subsequent years without someone can be just as hard.

Every year, as our lives continue, it’s natural that our feelings of loss can resurface at particular times within the year. What is useful to recognise is that each loss, and the grief that comes with it, is unique. As time goes on it is different for everyone, but of course the hope is that it becomes more manageable. Grief is normal and there is nothing wrong in feeling how you do.

Whatever you do, be gentle with yourself and talk to someone about it if you choose to.


If you do find yourself struggling, the national bereavement charity CRUSE has a useful resource on handling Christmas time.

Find out more information about our bereavement support and counselling services.