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Grief at Christmas: Common questions asked by young people

Grief at Christmas: Common questions asked by young people

Home » Advice » Grief at Christmas: Common questions asked by young people
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Written by Winston’s Wish

Dealing with your grief at Christmas can be tough. 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 grieving young people.

1. How do I cope now Christmas is different after my person died?

Some people want to keep Christmas exactly the same as it was before their person died, while others will want to do something completely different or start a new tradition. Some may want to do something to remember the person who has died while others may prefer not to. Maybe introducing some new traditions might help you to cope with Christmas being different now.

To help ease some anxiety leading up to the first Christmas, we decided to change how we celebrated. Not to forget the happy times that we had, but to start some new traditions that would help separate the pain. We got a new tree, different decorations, changed what we ate and crucially for me – how we spent Christmas morning.

Angharad, Youth Ambassador

2. What if I just want to stay in my room and do nothing?

Grieving can be very difficult, and important days can make you feel like you may not want to celebrate in the same way that you have done in the past. Your grief might feel too overwhelming or the reminder that your important person is no longer here might feel too painful to treat the day the same as previous years.

It’s okay for you to do what feels right for you on Christmas Day. You might find it helpful to have open conversations about how you want to spend the day and what you would like that to look like in the days leading up to the 25th. It can be helpful to let those around you know that you’re not feeling up to joining in with the festivities, and that instead you might want some alone time or to treat it as just another day.

Everyone feels differently in their grief and there is no right or wrong, whatever your day looks like remember that you are not alone.

3. What should I do at Christmas? Should we still set their place at dinner? Should we visit their grave? Should I put their name on cards and presents?

Some children and young people might take comfort in continuing old traditions, and others might find this feels like too much of a painful reminder. Try to gain a sense of how these ideas feel for you and prepare ahead of the day. It’s also important to remember that everything may not go to plan or things might feel differently on the day. Try to be gentle with yourself and not add pressure to get the day ‘right’ – you are grieving, so things will feel different.

To feel connected to my dad, I kept up some of the traditions that he used to do. He used to buy everyone a scratch card every year, so I kept up the tradition and did the same to include my dad’s memory in the day. I also allowed myself to take time on my own when needed.

Libby, Youth Ambassador

5. I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t think I can put on a brave face for the family. How can I get through this?

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It’s important to remember that you don’t need to put on a brave face. It’s okay and helpful to acknowledge your grief and emotions and not feel like you have to bottle it all up. On significant days, your grief and emotions may feel closer to the surface, so it can be helpful to take the day one step at a time, and to give yourself permission to have some space or time alone if you’re needing it.

It literally is like a minute by minute play I think on days like this. I think shaking things up, going out, I think getting outside, go on a walk. Whatever the scenario is, just being able to remove yourself either you and like someone you love or the whole crew.

Zoe, Youth Ambassador

Having open and honest conversations about how you feel and what is on your mind may help those around you to know how they can best support you over the festive period. It might help to try and prepare for the day in advance, thinking about what your day might look like, or if you want there to be parts of the day or activities to spend time remembering your important person. It might also be that you think about the things that bring you comfort or help you in difficult moments so that these can be on hand for you. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and however you feel is valid.

Sometimes it’s hard to be happy and you feel like, ‘Why can’t I be happy like everyone else?’ and then it makes things worse. And it’s fine to be sad. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you can’t cry. Do what you need to do. If you need to be sad, be sad.

Maisie, Youth Ambassador

How to speak to Winston’s Wish

If you’re struggling with grief right now, Winston’s Wish is here to help and here to listen. Winston’s Wish provides support for grieving children and young people (up to the age of 25). We offer one-to-one and group support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline, email and live chat service where you can talk to bereavement professionals.

You can call us for free on 08088 020 021 (open 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday), email ask@winstonswish.org or use our live chat (open 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday) and find out more on our Get Support page.

If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.

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