How can my family enjoy Christmas when we’re grieving?

So many times, we are asked: ‘How are we going to get through Christmas?’

It can be a real worry, because even though adults may not feel like it, children will often still want Christmas to happen in some way.

They will often understand that it won’t be the same, but if you are able to talk with them beforehand, this can help them to know that Christmas celebrations may be more low-key this year.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, everyone, everywhere is in Christmas mode!
Shops are full of festive fun, there’s Christmas music blaring out, children writing their letters to Santa and lots to do with a festive feel.

It feels like it’s the only thing people can talk and think about, but often it’s the last thing you want to do, especially if you’re facing Christmas, whether it be the first or fifth, without that special person being part of it.

Here are some helpful tips that we advise to the families we support to make sure your children can still enjoy Christmas and it doesn’t leave you overwhelmed.

  • Buy a Christmas candle and light it each evening through December. Often, people say that every time the candle is lit, the whole house seems warmer and it gives them time to reflect as a family.
  • Plan your shopping ahead of time if you feel able to. Maybe even change shopping centre, or if you can’t face the shops then order things online, buy gift tokens for this year, or keep it simple ad only buy for close family.
  • Enlist the help of others with wrapping up the gifts – the children will enjoy helping you too.
  • Perhaps start a new family tradition. You could buy a Christmas tree decoration to remember the special person and chose this as a family to hang on the tree on Christmas morning.
  • Give yourself permission to change a family tradition. You don’t have to do everything the same way. Here’s a suggestion. Hang up a Christmas stocking for the special person, put some notelets by the stocking for everyone to write down little things that they remember about them or funny things/ situations they have been in. This can be there throughout the lead-up to Christmas, then decide as a family if the cards are going to be read out as a set time over Christmas or if people just want to read them privately. After Christmas, put them somewhere safe like in a memory box to use in the future.
  • Allow yourself to let your emotions flow as and when you need to. Shared tears are good tears so don’t be afraid to let them show. This may encourage the children to talk about how they are feeling too.
  • Be good to yourself – pamper yourself even if it’s something small like having a lovely bubble bath or taking a walk in the fresh air to your favourite place.
  • Some families chose to go away for Christmas, but it’s about doing what’s right for you and your family.
  • Well-meaning family and friends can sometimes make things a little harder. You may feel like you are getting inundated with invites from everyone wanting to have you for Christmas and some are being a bit pushy, but it’s about what’s right for you.
    Hanker down at home, go away, or spend it with friends – all or part of the day. Take a deep breath and say what you want but don’t be pressured. If finding the words are difficult, then perhaps write a little note or send a text instead which may be easier.
  • You may want to visit the grave or the special place that was important to you as a family, so talk as a family in advance so you can plan it into your day.