When someone important in a family has died, Christmas can feel so very different and hard to manage.

It’s not at all unusual for people to feel that they want to ‘cancel’ Christmas. When everything is so family-focused, the gap in a family is highlighted even more. Christmas can feel like an enormous struggle with a strong sense that things can never be the same again, and facing the first Christmas without that special person can be especially painful.

Families tell us that the run up to Christmas – with all the anticipation and excitement that accompanies it – can be harder to deal with than the actual day itself. Often, people feel they don’t have the heart for shopping for presents, sending cards or entering into festivities – yet if there are children in the family, it is unlikely that Christmas can be ignored.

It is important to make time to acknowledge your feelings. Being with friends who understand and will accept you however you are and allow you to laugh, cry and remember can help you through the day. Don’t expect too much of yourself; grieving is exhausting and, especially in the early days, can leave you with little energy for much else.

Doing something special in memory of the person who has died can be an important part of Christmas for some families – visiting a significant place, hanging a special decoration on the tree, or lighting a candle that burns in their memory are just some of the things families have done.

While some people find comfort in doing the things they always did as a way of remembering that person, others find it more helpful to do something completely different. What matters is that, as far as possible, you are able to do whatever feels right for you.

>> Read about Joanna and Matt’s experience of Christmas after the death of their twins Oliver and Joseph.

Tips from young people:

  • Too many emotions? Share them
  • I like to take my mind off it – TV, playstation, go outside
  • Watch a good film or TV programme
  • Choose something that belonged to the person who died that you can treasure
  • Listen to music that you like
  • Create your own space as sometimes it can get too much and you can feel there is nowhere else to go
  • It’s OK that sometimes you may want to talk about it and other times you may not want to
  • Spend time with friends
  • Spend time with your pets
  • Write about or draw your thoughts, feelings and memories
  • Memory books or boxes can be really helpful
  • Think about all of the good times you had with them

If you are a young person and would like to connect with others who may be in a similar situation, there are online message boards and forums for bereaved young people.  Sometimes just reading others’ stories can help you to see that you are not alone.  Moderated, safe sites for young people include:

Helpline – 0800 02 888 40

Our confidential Helpline will be open during the Christmas 2018 period at the following times:

Friday 21 December Normal hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Christmas Eve  9:00am – 2:30pm
Christmas Day Closed
Boxing Day Closed
Thursday 27 December 10.00am – 4.00pm
Friday 28 December 10.00am – 4.00pm
Monday 31 December 10.00am – 4.00pm
1 January Closed
2 January 2019 onwards Normal hours (9:00am – 5:00pm)

The following helplines are open during the holidays:

Samaritans – 116 123 (freephone, open 24 hours a day)

The Compassionate Friends – 0345 123 2304 (open every day 10.00 – 4.00pm, 7.00pm – 10.00pm, see website for charges)

Child Death Helpline – 0800 282 986 (freephone) or 0808 800 6019 if calling from a mobile

SANDS (Stillbirth & neonatal death charity) – 0808 164 3332 (freephone, see website for opening hours)

Cruse Bereavement Care – 0808 808 1677 (freephone, see website for opening hours)