10 ways to cope with that first Christmas after someone has died

First Christmas after Funeral

Christmas is a time for reflection and jubilation. It’s a time for family get-togethers and traditions, big dinners and carols by the fire. It is also a time that can be hard for some that have lost loved ones in the lead up to the holiday season. Judy shares with us her personal story of loss and some fantastic tips on how to cope with Christmas when someone you love won’t get to share it with you this year.

Over to you Judy. 

As I come to the end of another busy year for me, I’ve been reflecting on how this will be the first Christmas for so many families, where there will be an empty seat at the table on Christmas Day.

I know it will be a sad and poignant time…. It will be the same for me too, as my mum died in January this year. For the first time in 59 years, there will be no “To a Dear Daughter” card in my Mum’s lovely handwriting; no Terry’s chocolate orange, (which my mum bought me every year since I was about five years old); no sneaking a sherry together as we peel the Brussels sprouts and sing along to the Christmas carols on Radio 4 …. There are some things I’ve done, to make this time a little easier. They may work for you too, or you may have your own rituals?


If you have kept any of the cards you had from the person who has died, choose one and put it up with all your other cards, just as you always did. Still buy them a card, and write it to them too, just as you always did. Display it with a photo of them.

Raise a glass

When you sit down around the table for your Christmas meal, firstly, raise a glass in a toast to the person who you’re missing.

Start your own tradition 

Start your own new little ritual; I buy a Swarovski star for the Christmas tree for each person who has died; in remembrance of them.

Share a photograph

Put a photograph of them in a lovely frame, add some baubles or holly, and a and light a candle next to it to burn brightly in their memory (for safety, you may wish to use a battery operated “real flame“ version.

If you love Christmas, don’t cancel

And if it’s all too recent and too raw for you to celebrate Christmas, don’t cancel Christmas altogether, just change it around a little. Think about going out for lunch on Christmas Day instead. Go for a walk, on your own if necessary, just to reflect quietly.

Reach out to others

If you have a faith or belief, call into church and light a candle. Make a donation to a charity that was important to the person you are missing, as your Christmas gift to them. Talk about them, grief gets easier when it isn’t bottled up.


Don’t let the death become the ‘elephant in the room’, and don’t deny yourselves the joy of the season. However you mark this first Christmas, I wish you peace in your heart and a quietly joyful spirit.

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