Tips from WAY members for coping with grief over the Christmas period

December 2023

We know how difficult Christmas can be for people who have been widowed young. As everyone around you is celebrating the festive period, we understand that no matter how many days, months or years you are from your bereavement, this time of year can bring a rollercoaster of emotions.

WAY members share their tips for coping with grief and loss at Christmas.

  • “It's OK to allow yourselves to be sad. There can be an expectation that it's a 'happy' time of year and that you should celebrate. Some people will say ‘your person wouldn't want you to be sad.’ Last year, I kept it all together in front of my children and family and then went to bed and sobbed.  
    This year, I plan to be more authentic with my feelings and take time out if necessary. We've found that there are some traditions we still like to do, and others that are too hard, which is fine too."- WAY member, Nikki
  • "I bought a candle the first year that had a connection to my husband that we lit on Christmas morning and it stayed lit all day... It felt like involving him somehow." - WAY member and Volunteer Manager, Veronica
  • "You can't stop your emotions so try to be in a place where you can do the things you need to. We all grieve differently but knowing WAY members who get it are here really helps." - WAY member
  • “I don’t do a roast at Christmas. In fact, the first Christmas, we had pizza! I have not done a roast since we now have a new tradition... pizza and naughty treats all day. I still buy mince pies as my son loves them.” - WAY member, Susan
  • “My advice is don’t try to do too much on the day itself. Try to be gentle with yourself in the month of December. Shop online or before the decorations and music start in the shops. And set an alarm for Christmas Eve so you don’t fall asleep before Santa is due to arrive!” - WAY member, Sarah 
  • “We always have a toast to my husband at the start of the Christmas meal, but I haven’t spent xmas day with my in-laws yet as I can’t bring myself to face it. I have a quiet moment (when able), but I just try and make it as special as possible for my daughter, with loads of xmas baking (homemade and precooked gingerbread houses), crafts etc” - WAY member, Claire
  • “Before widowhood I obsessed about my tree. It had to be perfect and symmetrical. The first Christmas I had no energy. My daughter took over. The tree was a giant mess but they had so much fun. That was the turning point for me.” - WAY member, Sarah
  • “My Mark passed away beginning of December last year so if I had a choice I would have cancelled Christmas but my boys have wanted us to stick to our usual traditions and do everything how we would always do things. 
    Reflecting on it I think it probably provides them with consistency and stability in a weird way.” - WAY member, Chloe

More of our members will be sharing their tips and how they cope with grief and loss during the holidays in our #12WAYSofChristmas
We will also be sharing them daily on our social media pages from 20 December through to New Year. 

Hear more from WAY members:

This will be Sarah’s first Christmas and New Year without Glynn, who died on 3 March 2023.

"He was such a fan of Christmas and loved going over the top on decorations and spoiling everyone! He made Christmas magical, and I’ll make it special in his honour.”

Read Sarah's story and how she will be having a 'Glynn-styled' Christmas this year...

WAY volunteer Tracey shares the story of how WAY Widowed and Young’s Secret Santa initiative came about.

This year she is organising for more than 170 gifts to be sent out to WAY members’ children across the UK, helping to share a little WAY love at Christmas.

"The motivation to keep going is literally the smiles, just knowing that I, and my fellow WAYers, have helped WAY families all over the UK smile, if only for a minute."

"I suppose I’m facing next year with optimism. I have to get through the first anniversary, but then I have to live my life to the full. I owe him that because he can’t do the same and I owe myself that, because I have a life to live."

WAY member Claire shares how she is facing the Christmas and the New Year with as much optimism as she can since her husband of 20 years died in January…