How to keep lost loved ones alive at Christmas

It doesn’t matter if you lost a loved one last week, last year or 11 years ago. Come Christmas, there’s a big aching hole at the table, in the room, and in your heart.

Because there are so many family traditions woven into everything we do throughout December, it can be a really difficult time of year, but ensuring you remember those you’ve loved and lost can really help to keep them alive.

Get everyone involved on the first Christmas

The first Christmas without that certain someone is normally the toughest. It’s likely you’ll want to start sobbing the second you wake up, and as the day unfolds, every festive act can make memories spiral. It’s tough when the emotions are still so raw, but turning this into a positive can really help.

If your mum was the big organiser at Christmas, you’ll want to remember her. If your partner always made the mulled one, you’ll enjoy toasting them as you slurp that first glass. If your dad was the first to kick off charades, you should definitely play it in his honour.

It won’t be easy, but by getting everyone together and asking non-blood relatives to take the lead in raising a glass (just in case the lump in your throat is stopping you from saying something, even when you really want to), it’s a chance to remember those who aren’t with us any more, and keep them being a part of your Christmas celebrations.

Share those memories

View this post on Instagram

Well, that was an emotional one, but the tree’s up… Cheers Mum. Miss you so much

A post shared by Claire Richardson (also Spreadbury) (@clarabell1979) on

“Talk about the person you have lost,” says Donna Lancaster, grief counsellor and co-founder of The Bridge Retreat ( “Share together all of your happy memories of them from over the years; the funny stories and individual quirks that made them so special to you all. Get out the photos and film clips and celebrate their life. Allow yourselves to laugh and cry together in honour of the love you all shared.”

Celebrate their life as well as Christmas

Create a simple area in the home dedicated to your lost love one, suggests Lancaster. Display photographs and meaningful objects in a cluster, then for December, you could add a festive candle and light it each morning as a symbol of their presence.

Do what they did around the festivities

“Play their favourite Christmas games, sing the festive songs they enjoyed and watch the films that they loved,” suggests Lancaster. “Go for walks together along the route they used to take. Make sure they’re felt through all the many ways you share the festive season together as a family.”

Make a toast

That toast really is so important. If it’s all you can manage to squeak out the words, ‘To absent friends’, before you all raise a glass – that will do. It can be so, so hard. But everyone who’s there with you at that precise time knows exactly who you’re thinking of, and everyone will think of them too. If you want to raise money or awareness for charities that are connected, it’s also a good time to pick something to sign up to the following year, so you’re doing something positive. Ensuring lost loved ones remain a part of your Christmas Day is something that will bring you so much happiness every year.

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16th Dec 2018
Thanks for voting!
I lost my beloved husband 15 months ago and the pain stays with me every day. I am finding the run up to Christmas this year just as hard as I did last year. Last Christmas was just a blur to me, I went through the motions for the sake of my grandchildren who were excited about the visit from Santa, but inside I was churning up at the thought of having to pretend everything was all right. To be perfectly honest, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and cry. This year I have been trying harder to accept invitations to go out, but inside, my heart is just broken and weary of trying to be "happy". I doubt the pain will ever go away, but like everyone else in this situation, we have to accept what has happened and learn to live with the pain.
I hope you all find the comfort you are looking for this Christmas.
16th Dec 2018
Thanks for voting!
I lost my wife 4 years ago, I hate this time of year. Jan used to love Xmas. The pain never goes away or gets easier with time. You just learn to live with it. I don't accept invitations, I just baton down the hatches and wait till it's all over. Probably not what you wanted to hear but that's the way it is x
16th Dec 2018
Thanks for voting!
I lost my beloved partner is Sept and dreading Christmas even though I will be with family. X

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