Celebrating Christmas after loss - Tips for parents and carers

Christmas can be a time when loss is felt particularly acutely and when the absence of the loved person is felt more strongly than in the everyday run of life. In this article, Jayne Paulson, Children and Young Person Supporter, shares some ideas that may help those supporting a bereaved child this Christmas.

November 27, 2023

Christmas can be a time when loss is felt particularly acutely, especially the first couple of years after a bereavement but this can also be longer term. It may be a time when the absence of the loved person is felt more strongly than in the everyday run of life - mum may not be there to make her special Christmas biscuits, granddad might be missed for his carol singing or dad might not be there to put up the Christmas tree. 

It can also be a time when memories of previous, happier family times are prominent in the hearts and minds of both adults and children and the space in the home left by the person who has died seems bigger than usual. 

It can be tempting to think that the best approach is to try to create entirely new Christmas traditions and to not dwell too much on the loss. Yet, at the same time, there is an opportunity to remember laughter, love and fun times that were shared together. Many children find that they especially want to have a sense of including their loved person in the celebrations and that much joy and sense of continuation can come from this. 

I am going to offer a few ideas for how this can be done but the most important thing is to find a way of remembrance that is meaningful for your family and your child. In fact, talking about this with the child and including them in the Christmas plans can be a way of allowing them their feelings and finding the balance between the past and the present (no pun intended!). 

  • Christmas tree decorations: Your child may like to decorate a special bauble or ornament for the tree and write the name of the loved person on this. Alternatively they may want to choose some significant photos and make them into decorations, hanging them from the tree. It might appeal to your child to make a star shaped decoration and draw or write some important words that remind them of the loved person. They may also like to make paper chains as decorations and write or draw on these. 


  • Christmas cards: your child may have saved Christmas cards from previous years when their loved one was still with them. If so, they may like to put these somewhere prominent in the home. 
  • Setting a place at the table: If the Christmas meal was an important part of the celebrations, your child may like to mark this by setting a place for the loved person, maybe writing their name on a card or lighting a candle to sit at their place on the table. 
  • Gifts: your child may appreciate having a present to unwrap from the loved person, this can be chosen with care and consideration. If your family visits the grave or another special place to remember the loved person, your child might like to take a gift to leave there, this could be flowers, a card, treats for the birds if it is outside. 
  • Letter writing: Christmas also marks the time when we are coming to the end of another year without the loved person. Your child may like to take this opportunity to write a card or a letter to tell the person who has died, all about the year that has passed. Writing can be highly therapeutic for adults and children and can be a way of expressing all the feelings we would like to have shared with the loved one. 
  • Christmas traditions: many families have their own particular ways of celebrating - for instance, a special cake recipe, special way of giving and receiving gifts, going out together for a walk on Christmas morning or many other ways of marking this special time. Your child may feel they would like these traditions to continue as a way of including the loved person, you may find that, if you talk with them about this, they can be reassured to know that some aspects of the day can stay unchanged. 

As is so often the case in adjusting to life after bereavement, one of the most important things we can offer our children is a listening ear, to be ready to talk with them and listen to them around what they want, how and if they want to remember the loved person. For some children it might be too painful to include the person who died in their celebrations and this too can be respected. The adults can find their own way of remembering and it may always be possible that next year your child will want to do things differently.   

Every child is individual and every family is unique and however you choose to celebrate, or not, we wish you a special and precious time. 


Thank you to Jayne Paulson, Children and Young Person Supporter, for sharing this article and for the incredible support she provides to young people, all year round.

Demand for our services has increased and we desperately need to train more specialists – like Jayne - to provide our bereavement support to children and young people.

Unless we can build more resource to cope with the demand, the likelihood is we ultimately have to turn families away. Please help to ensure that does not happen.

No matter the amount you can afford to give, your donation will offer hope and vital support to many grieving families.

To read family stories, additional support, and more, visit our Christmas Appeal page.

Celebrating Christmas after loss - Tips for parents and carers