Child's hands putting decorations on a Christmas tree - Winston's Wish

How to cope at Christmas as a widowed parent

Christmas can be an incredibly challenging time when you’ve lost a loved one, particularly if you’re a parent also supporting grieving children as you navigate your own bereavement.

We asked our friends at the charity WAY Widowed and Young – which supports people who’ve been widowed before their 51st birthday – if they had any tips for bereaved parents to help them get through the difficult festive season.

Here’s what they recommended:

Don’t try to do too much

Shop online or before the decorations and Christmas music arrive in the shops so it’s not so overwhelming. Send online Christmas cards through a service like Don’t Send Me a Card. Family and friends will understand if you don’t feel up to doing everything you used to do.

Do something different

Changing routines can help to avoid painful memory cues. Establish new traditions that resonate with you and your children. Go away somewhere different to create new memories, cook different food or indulge in an outdoor activity you all enjoy. Doing some crafts together like drawing or painting can also be a good way for you and your child to express your emotions together.

Be gentle on yourself

Do what feels right for you and your children – there’s absolutely no right or wrong. If that means spending Christmas Day together in your pyjamas watching TV and eating pizza, so be it. If you don’t want to be alone over the festive period, make plans to be with friends or family, but make sure there’s a safe and quiet space you can escape to for some quiet reflection if you need to.

Find a way to bring your loved one into the day

Many WAY members said they find it reassuring to involve their late partner in the festivities somehow. Create a memory jar; share stories; hang special baubles, photos or letters on your Christmas tree; or light a candle in your loved one’s memory.

We light a candle on Christmas morning and that burns all day, like a little light that shines on in his memory and will continue to do so.

Bridie, WAY member

Make sure you have a gift to open

If you have younger children, encourage a friend to take them out to buy a small gift for you. Some WAY members even buy themselves a gift as if it were from their loved one to make sure they have something to open on Christmas Day.

Connect with others who understand

Reach out to other bereaved parents through peer support networks like WAY Widowed and Young. One WAY member Jayne has set up a Christmas subgroup for fellow members who are struggling in the run up to the festive season. The group now has more than 600 members, who offer each other tips, advice and Christmas-related activities including watching Christmas TV and movies together virtually…

There’s no escaping it so we might as well get through it together as best we can.

Jayne, WAY member

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About WAY

WAY Widowed and Young is the only national charity in the UK for men and women aged 50 or under when their partner died.

The charity offers a unique peer-to-peer support network to young widowed people – inclusive of sexual orientation, gender, race and religion – as they adjust to life after the death of their partner.

Visit for more information or email them at

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