Have you even noticed that Christmas crackers tend to come in packs of six or 12? Even numbers seem to work. But what if this year you have an odd number of people at your table? One of your nearest and dearest is gone this year, never again to don the absurd tissue paper crown or ponder the point of the plastic trinket. How do you deal with the empty chair?


1. Do what feels right

It’s up to you to decide the activities and traditions you can handle. Don’t feel obligated to take part in activities that don’t feel doable. Grieving takes time. You only need to take part in things that feel comfortable.


2. Accept your feelings

Everyone has their own way of grieving. However you feel, accept it – and accept that there will be ups and downs. Try to stay in tune with your feelings and don’t judge yourself.


3. Call on family and friends

Talk to your loved ones about your emotions. If you want to talk about someone who has died, do so. And let others know its OK to do so too.


4. Focus on the kids

The festive season is a special time for children, and it can be helpful to focus on their needs.


5. Plan ahead

Sometimes anticipation can be worse than the actual event. Try taking the dread out by planning to take part in particular activities. Do what feels best for you.


6. Scale back

If the thought of lots of holiday activities feels painful and overwhelming, cutting back may help. Create realistic expectations for yourself and, above all, be gentle with yourself.


7. Give

It’s amazing how in times of grief that sometimes the greatest comfort is to give to others. Grief can seem to leave us paralysed, but channeling your energies into something positive by giving back to others can make all the difference.


8. Acknowledge the person who has passed

It can be helpful to take part in a ritual to honour the memory of your loved one. Try lighting a candle for your loved one or looking at old photos. Listening to a favourite song can also help.


9. Do something different

Acknowledge that things have changed and that the festive season will not be the same as it was ever again. Accepting this will help manage expectations.


10. Skip it

If it all feels too much, you can simply opt out of participating in Christmas activities. Let your family and friends know. But be sure to plan alternative activities for yourself and let someone know what you’ll be doing.


If you or someone you know need help coping with grief at Christmas, reach out to a family member, friend or counsellor – help and support at this time of year can make all the difference. Or email [email protected] and we’ll help you find the services and resources you need.