Navigating Christmas Without A Loved One


“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 
Anne Lamott

Christmas is not always an easy time. There are many of us for whom Christmas brings stark reminders of families broken, loved ones lost, and empty chairs at our tables.

If you are navigating Christmas this year while also grieving loss or going through great struggle I want to reach out to you. In the midst of the barrage of happy Christmas movies, fairytale endings and Hallmark Moments I want you to know that I am sorry for your pain, and the hardship this time of year can bring. Please also know you’re not alone. There are many of us whose hearts hurt at Christmas, even as we celebrate, because of loss. If your grief is raw and new it’s also okay to put things on hold, to do things differently, or to let the anniversary days like Christmas slide by unacknowledged until you are ready to face them again.

I’d like to share something I do at Christmas that may be useful for you too. I have found it helpful and healing to make a private little Christmas Altar each year. This way I remember the dead, the absent, the lost. An altar is simply a small dedicated spiritual space that is meaningful to you in some way.

On my altar I place fresh flowers, a candle and some favourite crystals. Things that bring me comfort, and a sense of sacred. Then I place photos or objects that represent a loved one who will not be at my table. That way I can still have them near me, and I can flow love to them and have them be part of my life over the festive season.

The beautiful big owl in the photo above was given to me one Christmas by my friend Angela. She passed away a few years ago. It will be central to my display.

I’ll place a tiny wooden boat for my brother, and a ceramic pelican for my dad. A sparkly stone for my sister and roses for my mum and all of the women in her family who have shaped and grown and loved me. My family all live far from me. But now they are here on my altar even if they cannot be here in person.

I’ll add a photo of Ben’s parents from when they were young, and pictures of my grandparents too. I have cupcake-shaped candles for my darling Kate, who passed away too soon in 2010 ( I went back to her facebook page last night and was lost in there for an hour reading her old posts and laughing at what a dag she was and crying cos sometimes I still miss her more than breathing), and Julie who passed away in 2014. My Grandparents, all now passed, are here in photographs too and I will place a glass of sherry, Christmas Cake and some gingernut biscuits out because these are all the things they would have loved to eat, and later I will eat some and think of them. On Christmas Day I will play The Twelve Days of Christmas by the Ray Conniff Singers, because my Pa used to play that for us every year, and shed a few happy-sad tears.

It’s not the same as having them at my table, but it’s the next best thing. People coming to my house will think that I have simply gathered flowers and candles and photographs and a few ornaments together, but for me it is something healing and emotionally significant that helps me to feel the reassuring weight of my loved ones around me.

Perhaps making your own Christmas Altar will help you this Christmas too.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole ❤ xx