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How to Cope with Christmas Mourning

Updated on December 12, 2014

When Christmas isn't Merry

Christmas isn't happy for everyone.

For some, it's a time of aching grief, remembering holidays of the past. For those who carry the pain of lost family and friends, Christmas is a cruel reminder of happier days, carefree days that belonged to an earlier life.

It's hard to feel festive feelings when you're in sorrow. Prepare for how you're going to get through Christmas. By thinking ahead, talking with family members and making plans you can decrease some of the anxiety surrounding the holidays.

All of us carry grief

As we go through life, grief comes to all of us.

When we leave home, we leave our childhood behind. We move on to making our own homes, our own families, our own place in the world. We say goodbye to those innocent, protected days when we thought we would live forever.

We lose our innocence, we lose our trust in the world, we experience disappointment, we lose our dreams.

Then we lose our loved ones.

All of us are different

No matter how we cope with our grief, how we continue in our daily life, how much we have healed from the blow of loss, the pain is always there neatly tucked away from the rest of the world.

Healing happens gradually; it can't be forced or hurried - and there is no "normal" timetable for grieving. There's no right or wrong time frame for grieving or for healing. How long it takes is different for all of us.

Some days are harder than others and a big celebration, like Christmas with its emphasis on family, friends and shared happiness, is just about the hardest.

I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye

I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One
I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Recommended. Good practical resources for recovery, such as self-help therapy,and exercises,


Coping with the first Christmas since your loss

Go easy on yourself

1. Make a list of what is really important to you about the holidays,what is it you

  • Need To Do
  • Want To Do and
  • Not This Year

Talk with your family about those things that you really can't do this year, but may add back into the planner next year.

2. Next, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, surround yourself with those family members and friends who are supportive and caring - be gentle with yourself during this time and ask family and friends to understand when you need time for yourself

3. Set limits. Don't accept more invitations or commitments than you can manage.

4. Get as much rest as possible.

Back To Life: Your Personal Guidebook To Grief Recovery
Back To Life: Your Personal Guidebook To Grief Recovery

Simple to read, immensely practical with good advice om getting through the holidays


Coping with the Holiday Celebrations

Do you usually host the family Christmas meal? Are you normally responsible for lots of activities during the holidays? Delegate.

Lots of us who coping with grief during the Christmas holidays can feel guilty when we can enjoy, in some small way, the festivities of the Season. If you find yourself having a good time, go with it. it's natural. As natural as the grief itself.

Have time to be sad

Take some time out, to remember,

Find a quiet spot to remember some of the good things

Write a letter to your loved one

Share some of the memories.

Create a Ritual for yourself

Whatever your loss, Rituals will serve you throughout your life.

Ritual helps you to manage the feelings aroused by tragedy. We have no choice about grief, it comes to us no matter how our life unfolds.

A Ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle or filling a vase with flowers or thinking a special thought. You're creating a small event in order to reflect a bigger event in your life.

How about you?

Do you cope with grief at Christmas?

See results

If you grieve at this time of year, you may have some advice to those who are facing their first Christmas after a loss.

And, if you're hurting, don't give up ...

© 2011 Susanna Duffy

Do you have a comment or advice?

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Every year in early December, I'm faced with memories of my youngest sister's untimely death. Writing about it and sharing that with my sisters and other family is my way of releasing some of those sad feelings.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Very helpful information for anyone experiencing Grief during the holidays. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 3 years ago from Liverpool, England

      And from the other side, respect others' situation, don't force your idea of Christmas on them.

    • profile image

      poutine 5 years ago

      Very difficult to deal with grief at holidays or birthdays.

    • Commandrix profile image

      Heidi 6 years ago from Benson, IL

      It can be tough. My family lost one of my cousins in a car accident a few years ago and every Christmas is still hard on his mom.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      I don't have a death to bring me down at Christmas but I'm getting divorced so this Christmas is not being celebrated at all. I am mourning a loss of sorts. Beautifully done resource. Tahn you for this.

    • profile image

      baby-strollers 6 years ago

      It can be a sad time but faith keeps me moving.

    • TrentAdamsCA profile image

      TrentAdamsCA 6 years ago

      Glad I found this today. Moving and helpful thoughts on a tough topic. I rarely talk about it, just keep the whole season as low-key as I can. Explained to a friend who invited me to go out for Christmas that it's much easier for me to spend it alone. Thanks for you insights and practical suggestions.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      This is a great topic that is little is said or written about. I'm really glad you wrote this to generate discussion and provide resources for help. ~blessed

    • profile image

      CatJGB 6 years ago

      I should have a 4 month old baby boy with me this Christmas, but he was stillborn in May this year. Impending Christmas is bringing it all to the surface again, it's going to be hard this year.

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 6 years ago

      This is a wonderful lens. Having lost multiple family members on or about significant holidays, I understand much of what you say here. Thanks for a thoughtful and information packed lens.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      Some good tips here. Get in a grief support group. Give it time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is so true. Its a terrible time of year when people are missing

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 6 years ago from USA

      What a thoughtful lens for those who have new grief and still dealing with the holidays without the loved one. What you said is very true. My husband has always had a hard time during the Thanksgiving-Christmas season, because he suffered such loss at that time as a child. We need to extend even more love at this time. Thanks for your encouraging words.

    • profile image

      Medusa-Speaks 6 years ago

      This is so true. Each Christmas it's like the pain is fresh again. I like your suggestion of a ritual. Thanks

    • profile image

      nsixx99 6 years ago

      Beautiful advice, Christmas can be a very dark time for some and maybe even everyone at some point. I hope anyone who is experiencing loss this holiday season will find their inner strength and remember to share their memories and pain and not to try and go it alone.

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 6 years ago from Detroit

      Holidays can be extremely hard. I never did create a ritual for myself. If you don't participate in all the goings on, you can't build new memories.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      This is very true and people do feel very real pain around the holidays. The first year after my brothers death, we did not have time to think or plan anything different for Christmas, we just muddled through. The next year was extremely difficult and carrying on was just impossible. So, last year my husband and our children took my parents to Europe. Spending Christmas through New Years away from home was actually a fantastic plan for us. There were certainly holiday decorations everywhere, but my parents had never been to Paris or Rome, so there was much excitement over showing them our favorite places. Nope, it didn't exactly feel like Christmas, but in reality, staying home the year before didn't either. Traditions are fabulous and we are certainly a family that embraces our traditions, but sometimes a break from tradition is the best way to survive and cope. This year, we will be burning the home fires again and we shall see how it goes. If it is still too painful, well, there is always Scotland for next year if need be :) Or Ireland! Now that would be a first for us all.

    • profile image

      boutiqueshops 6 years ago

      Thank you for a very insightful page, written with love. Christmas and other holidays have never been the same for me...your thoughts are comforting. Blessed....

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      These very wise words are well written and is a wonderful resource for those trying to cope at Christmas..

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 6 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Christmas is so much a time for family and friends that grief for a loved one can be especially hard to cope with. You've given such good advice and in a thoughtful and practical way.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Excellent and timely advice.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I remembered the Christmas after we lost my father. We were all very young then so it was really sad. Great lens.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      A great page Susanna.Christmas always brings back many family memories and is some times a very stressful and sad time.

    • profile image

      AnimalHouse 6 years ago

      Great lens! I will deal with the loss of my beloved pet who died on Christmas day last year, this is going to be a tough Christmas.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      This is a very helpful lens. Wish it had been here when I lost my son 20 years ago. I can testify to the validity of all the advice here. I felt family pressure to do a lot I wasn't ready for yet our first Thanksgiving, and I regretted it. My heart goes out to all who are facing their first holiday season after losing a loved one this year.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for creating this wonderful, helpful and thoughtful lens. For so many people the holidays are a time of sorrow and suffering rather than joy and togetherness. The forced hilarity our society heaps upon this time of year can really make you feel like the only person in the whole world who is not having a wonderful time. Lenses like this are a wonderful support.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Have my 89 year old Dad with me now. His wife died in August, so I imagine its going to be difficult. We don't plan on doing a celebration or decorating this year. Just a nice meal probably.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Facing up to our first Christmas without my Dad, so I discussed it with my family and we are doing things very differently this year.

      Thank you for this page Susanna, I can only guess at how hard Christmas must be for you and thank you for sharing these tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Touching lens. Blessed!

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      SOOOO true and glad to see this recognition for those who suffer so during the holidays. I know the feeling of just wanting it all to be overwith. Many of us feel the heavy weight of prior Christmas memories and trying to move ON despite the pain of loss.

    • luvmyludwig lm profile image

      luvmyludwig lm 6 years ago

      This was a much needed read this morning for me. I found it when Kathy Shared it on Facebook :) The part about rituals was very helpful. It's something I will take with me throughout the rest of my life. It's funny how just once sentence can mean so much when you read it.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 6 years ago from California

      This is a good reminder that not everyone is happy at Christmas. Knowing our friends (or family) and what they might be going through can help us be sensitive to their needs. *Blesssed*

    • profile image

      poutine 6 years ago

      You are right Christmas is not always a happy time. I read somewhere that there was more domestic violence during this season.