How I manage my grief at Christmas time

Christmas can be a difficult time for anyone dealing with grief. Joyce shares how she manages her grief over the holidays.

Written by Joyce Reilly


Every Christmas is the same. You see everyone getting ready for the big day, throwing up decorations and buying presents. As I’m writing this, I feel quite low knowing another Christmas will go by that I will once again be without my mother. It is quite hard to deal with and come to terms with because sometimes I feel like I have no one to talk to. When I do talk about it, people usually say “oh you poor thing, that must be very hard I don't know what to say” so in the past I would just hold the pain in all to myself and deal with it on my own without sharing it with the world. But this is the reality for a lot of people in Ireland and there are things we can all do to manage our grief.

So here are some of my tips on how I deal with grief over Christmas.

Focus on positive things:

Try not to just sit around and drown in your sorrows. When you feel very low it’s important to occupy your mind and not focus on the negatives. One thing that helps me is something a famous YouTuber said: “get a piece of paper and write down five things your thankful for with a hot drink.” It will give your mind some positives to focus on.

Get out for a walk:

Sometimes instead of sitting around it's important to get up and get out. When we feel sad, it can be very hard to actually drag yourself up off the couch or bed and face the world, because you just want to hide. But getting up and out can do wonders for your head. So no matter how much energy it takes you, make yourself go out for a walk, take a pair of earphones and listen to a podcast or some music and just breathe in the fresh air!

Write a letter to your loved one:

Sometimes getting it down on paper is the best thing you can do. Write a proper letter, and tell them how you feel and everything that is going on inside of you. Don't hold back. Hopefully you'll feel much better after doing this.

Watch a funny movie or a funny TV series:

If you can't manage to get out for a walk or do anything I've listed, put your feet up and throw on a funny sitcom like Friends, or a funny comedy like Rush Hour 3, or Central Intelligence. They never fail to make me laugh.

Have a good cry:

Sometimes we just need to let it out and cry. Holding it in is such an unhealthy coping mechanism and sometimes crying can really make you feel much better.

Meet up with a friend:

There is nothing better than meeting up with a good friend who always makes you laugh. Sometimes a good laugh and a good chat is all you need.

Time for acknowledgement

This isn't going to be easy by any means, but I’ve found it helps to accept that our loved one will not be with us this Christmas. We cannot put it aside any longer. I came to this conclusion recently, and it was hard. It is extremely hard to accept that the person we adore most will not be present this Christmas. I cried for a short while before taking a deep breath and moving on, and coming to the acceptance that yes, maybe she isn't present but I will always remember her presence. Once I brought myself to the reality of it, I really felt like there was a weight lifted off my shoulders. For years and years, I ignored the fact that I was hurting until this year where I realised I just don't have the energy to hold onto so much negativity at such a special time of the year. So I sat down, I gave myself time and I finally accepted the fact that my mother will not be here for Christmas, and because of this, I feel so much better this year.

Anyone who has lost someone they truly adore will know how hard it is at Christmas time as it is a family orientated holiday. Christmas is always going to be a hard time for us, but it's how we deal with it and who we do have with us that matters.

Our work is supported by