Stressed mum sat at a table wrapping presents - Winston's wish

Grief at Christmas: Common questions asked by parents and carers

Dealing with your grief at Christmas can be tough, especially when you’re a parent or carer and feel like you need to celebrate Christmas for your children. Know that you’re not the only one struggling with this. Here are some of the common questions our on-demand services team are asked by parents and carers supporting grieving children.

1. How do I cope if I don’t feel like celebrating Christmas now?

The festive season can trigger some really powerful feelings for everyone. Maybe anger and jealousy towards those who haven’t lost someone important to them, sadness because you miss that person or even feeling guilty that you are enjoying Christmas. However you are feeling is okay and you’re not alone.

Remember to go easy on yourself. Don’t try and do too much and do what feels right for you and your children. If that means spending Christmas Day eating pizza and watching non-festive TV, that’s fine. You could spend the day somewhere different, cook different food and establish new traditions. It might also help to find a way to bring your person into the day, maybe by talking about them, getting a special decoration or lighting a candle.

2. What if I don’t have the energy to do Christmas for the children because of my own grief?

Grief and the changes it brings can be exhausting. It may be that all your energy is channelled into coping with each day, and the thought of Christmas and everything that is involved can feel overwhelming.

That is okay and completely normal. Maybe this is a time where you can try to reach out to others. Ask a good friend or family member to help you think through any gifts you may need to buy, maybe send money or vouchers this year instead of feeling the pressure to buy specific presents, or let people know you won’t be sending cards. Delegate the cooking and baking if that is something you usually do or buy readily prepared meals to ease the workload.

Trying to replicate the same day you would have had before may not feel right, instead you could choose to spend the day doing things in a completely different order or somewhere different.

Communicate with others, manage expectations, break down any tasks into manageable chunks, consider accepting help from your loved ones. It is okay not to feel okay.

3. How do I help my child remember their person at Christmas?

There are different ways you could help your child remember their person at Christmas. This could be lighting a candle in their memory, writing a card and placing this at their grave or somewhere special, visiting their favourite place or listening to their favourite Christmas song. Sometimes a craft activity can help, some children might like to make a new decoration with their person’s name on and place it somewhere special or on the tree.

If your child does not want to do anything to remember their person on the day, that is okay too. It can help to talk about this together and even try doing something non-Christmassy if they’re finding it all too much. For example, watch a film, go for a walk, or play a game.

4. Do we make new Christmas traditions or keep the old ones alive?

It is entirely your own choice whether you wish to keep your usual traditions at Christmas, add some new ones or even change the whole dynamic of Christmas.

It may be something you decide to do yourself or you may prefer to discuss it with your children and wider family.

Some people find comfort in keeping their usual traditions, though they may feel bitter-sweet when your important person is no longer there.

New traditions can be added anytime, maybe playing their favourite music, adding their favourite food or meal to the usual Christmas dinner, lighting a candle and having quiet reflection time, or visiting their resting place.

Thinking about this ahead of time may ease a little anxiety in the build-up to Christmas Day, and knowing it’s okay to change your mind on the day is really important too.

5 The person died at Christmas, is it morbid to include remembering them in our day?

It isn’t morbid at all!

Everyone will handle their grief differently at Christmas just as at any other time of year, so it may be helpful and feel more supportive if this can be discussed amongst yourselves before the festive season. Maybe share ideas of how you want to remember them, for example, play their favourite music, have their favourite food or drink, or keep it simple by lighting a candle. You could even write memories down on paper and place them on the Christmas tree.

This might all feel like too much for some people in the family, while others might find it useful. It’s important to try and discuss everything with each other and know when people might need some time to themselves.

How to get grief support

If you’re a young person who is struggling with their grief or you are an adult who would like help to support a child or young person after the death of someone, Winston’s Wish are here to help. Winston’s Wish provides support for children, young people up to the age of 25 and adults supporting them.

You can call our Freephone Helpline on 08088 020 021 (8am-8pm, Monday to Friday), email us on or use our live chat (open 3-8pm, Monday to Friday). Our practitioners are here to listen, can offer immediate guidance and resources and tell you what support we can offer and what might be most suitable for you.

Our Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger is available 24/7 for urgent support in a crisis. Text WW to 85258.

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