Strategies to help cope with grief during the festive season

Being bombarded at home with adverts portraying family get-togethers, celebrations, joy and fun can be challenging for many people. At the same time, outside, street decorations and outdoor Christmas trees can be inescapable. This, in turn, can put into sharp focus your own unbearably painful circumstances.


In this article, I offer some strategies to help cope with grief during this time. You may also find these strategies helpful if you have experienced other losses, such as the loss of family connections through separation or divorce. The final part of the article focuses on other reasons why the festive season can be challenging, and many of the strategies to help with grief can help with these.

Navigating grief at Christmas

Coping with grief, especially during the festive season, can be incredibly challenging. Here are some suggestions that might help you navigate this difficult time:

Acknowledge your feelings

Don’t feel that you have to put on a brave face. It's OK to feel sad, angry, or even numb during the holidays. Acknowledging your emotions and allowing yourself to grieve is an important part of learning to live with your grief.

Set boundaries

It's OK to say no to social events or traditions that you're not ready for. Protect your own well-being and only participate in activities that feel right for you.

Honour your loved one

Find a way to honour and remember your loved one during the holidays. Light a candle in their memory, create a scrapbook, or write a letter expressing your feelings. Sometimes, expressing your feelings through creative outlets such as art, writing, or music can provide a sense of release and help you process your emotions. Doing something in their honour can be a meaningful way to cope.

Reach out for support

Don't hesitate to lean on your support network. Talk to friends, and family, about your feelings. Sharing your thoughts and memories of your loved one can be comforting. If your grief feels overwhelming and persistent, talking with a therapist or counsellor can provide you with coping strategies and emotional support - especially if you feel that you can’t talk to your close family for fear of upsetting them.

Take care of yourself

Grieving can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Make sure to get enough rest, eat healthily, and engage in activities that bring you comfort and relaxation.

Remember that grieving is a personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Be patient and compassionate with yourself, and allow yourself the time and space to heal in your own way.

Other reasons the holidays can be difficult

There are many reasons why the Christmas season can be so challenging:


As discussed above, for those who have lost loved ones, Christmas can serve as a painful reminder of their absence, making the festive season a time of even more acute mourning rather than celebration.

Family conflicts

For some, spending time with family during the holidays can lead to increased tension and conflicts, making the season a challenging and emotionally charged time.

Family separations

You may not be able to see your children because of divorce or because they live overseas.

Financial stress

The pressure to buy gifts and participate in holiday festivities can put a strain on finances, causing stress and anxiety for individuals and families who may already be struggling financially.

High expectations

There's often societal pressure to have a perfect festive experience, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment if reality doesn't match up – which almost certainly will not.


Some people may not have close family or friends to celebrate with, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can be especially difficult during the festive season.

Mental health issues

Individuals dealing with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety may find it difficult to cope with the added stress and expectations associated with the festive season.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Some people experience a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, which is related to changes in seasons and can worsen during the winter months, including the festive season.

It's essential to acknowledge and be sensitive to the fact that not everyone experiences the holidays in the same way. For those who find this time of year difficult, it's important to reach out for support, whether it's from friends, family, or mental health professionals. Additionally, for those who are aware of others going through a tough time, showing kindness and understanding can make a significant difference.

If you’d like to talk with a counsellor trained to help you resolve these kinds of issues, please give me a call.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14
Written by Karen Baker, MBACP | Disordered Eating, Bereavement and Loss Counselling
Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14

As a Person-Centered Counselor, I have a lot of experience with working with clients with disordered eating, bereavement, and loss. My aim is to help you navigate through what might be a very difficult and distressing period of your life. You might be feeling stuck and unable to move forward or reac...

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