Dealing with grief at Christmas time.

Christmas arrives like a pretty package full of grief triggers

Christmas is the wondrous occasion were everyone you hold dear to you is by your side and together you make the day magical though for some at dinner there will be a chair empty, a void so massive it will take every bit of your strength to smile trying to hide your anguish.
On Christmas Eve I always had somewhere to be, where all my extended family congregated to be met by the alluring smell of turkey, ham and at the kitchen table stood Nana chopping onions and herbs preparing her trademark stuffing. The house would explode in cheerfulness as the little ones ran around opening gifts, and we all sat around laughing and joking. Nana sang along to Christmas tunes, and when her favourite “The Fairy-tale of New York” rang out through the radio it would be blasted around the kitchen while she tip toed around dancing her little jig. She loved Christmas and it showed as she beamed with happiness, lighting up the room in the way that she always did.
Now though she has been gone three years and it hasn’t gotten any easier, tears still prick my eyes and pain still jabs away in every moment of every breathe that I take. Nana was the matriarch of our family, the glue that held us all together and the pinnacle of our family Christmas. Her house is empty now and at Christmas (the place where my family and I spent our childhood) it cannot be visited, cobwebs grow, dust settles and builders have just about pulled the place apart. The light that glowed from behind the trees in her little bungalow has darkened and has left a gap so big it cannot ever be filled. Christmas songs don’t ring out, lights don’t decorate her house and most importantly she isn’t there or here.
For some reason Christmas has a canny way of making you miss someone so much that your heart aches while being happy and grateful for the family you have close by but there are a few things you can do to cope…
  • Visit your loved ones grave if it helps but don’t feel guilty if others go and you can’t bear to visit, everyone deals with grief differently. Talk away to your loved one and ask for some space on your own. I personally always leave a gift like a teddy or ornament something I know she would have loved and while I can’t bear to stay too long I feel it helps in as much as I can expect it to.
  • Go to Christmas mass and light a candle, even if you aren’t overly religious a church is a beautiful place to be at Christmas. You can’t help but feel your loved one is there with you, gathering around in spirit twinkling in the church candle lights (or maybe that is just me?).
  • Curl up and feel sad, let out your emotions but don’t cling to the pain and release it so you can enjoy Christmas as your loved one would have wanted you to do so.
  • Accept that it is a sad time of year but also your loved one made Christmas special so carry on their traditions, for me I make my Nana’s legendary stuffing on Christmas Eve (for the beautiful smell) and I keep myself busy to avoid missing her. It doesn’t always work and I have come to realise if someone leaves you with such a void in your life, it can only mean they were one of the biggest and best parts of your world. Celebrate that, celebrate them, sing, laugh and cry and know that they are right there hymning along to your playful song.
  • Cuddle the ones you love, and grip them tight as today is Christmas and tomorrow no one knows what it will bring. My Nana had an amazing last Christmas spent with those she held dear, but I still wish we had another.
  • As the famous saying goes “it is better to loved and lost, to have never loved at all”.
  • Remember you aren’t alone, the world is sadly full of families united having dinner but with an obvious place missing, and I wish that in spite of your turmoil and grief you all have a blessed Christmas.
R.I.P To all those who can’t be with us this Christmas, we miss you, we really do xxx
Written by Emma, Irish mummy blogger and staff writer at 
Check out her own blog at


Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes is a busy mum to two girls aged 17 and 11 and is married to her childhood sweetheart.

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