Managing Grief at Christmas

How to manage grief at Christmas time after the death of a child.

Managing Grief at Christmas

The first few years after Bodie died, every card that didn’t acknowledge him in some way went straight in the bin.  My heart ached that his name could be deleted from our family when he will always be our son.

This is how Donna, CEO of the Bodie Hodges Foundation, felt at Christmas time after Bodie died.  She felt angry and upset that Bodie’s name could be deleted so easily, even though she knew it was never anyone’s intention to make her feel this way. 

Donna’s emotions were completely normal.  It is also normal to feel lost. Or frustrated.  Or like you want Christmas to disappear forever.  It is also OK if you want to find some joy at Christmas time and smile a little.  There are no rules.

So how can bereaved families manage the Christmas period, and the expectations that come with it?

Nicola explains “managing Christmas expectations is very personal and individual. It may be that a family continues with their traditions and adds a memory element to it for their loved one, or they completely change what they did before and do something new. It’s important to remember to do what feels right, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.”

This might be your first Christmas without your child, and you are navigating this for the first time.  This might be your second, or tenth Christmas without them.  Regardless, it is bound to be challenging.  Don’t feel that you must put on a brave face this year just because you’ve managed to get through it before.  Be kind to yourself every year.  Grief doesn’t just disappear. 

Nicola’s advice is “don’t put too much pressure on yourself to ‘be present’ at Christmas.  Remember, all feelings are valid.  Good and bad days are OK, and it’s OK to say ‘no’ to other peoples’ expectations.  It’s important to take time, remember, and reflect, and give yourself and your family space to grieve.”

So if you are grieving this Christmas, take your time, and do what is best for you.

I’d like to finish by adding that our wonderful friend Gemma Orton, Freddie Orton’s beloved mummy, recently posted a Donna Ashworth quote on Facebook which read;


Grief can be a fearful foe, on the ordinary days alone.  But at Christmas, it is a storm some cannot weather, not yet.  Let them build their grief-ships strong.  Let them stitch flesh and heart back together – in dim light, if they must.

For those of you supporting a bereaved family this Christmas, be kind. 

Be there.

Be the listening ear or the hand to hold, the coffee maker or the grocery shopper, the children’s entertainer, or the cook.

Do your best to understand and be patient.  But also look after yourself.


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