The empty chair at Christmas

Font Size:

If you’ve recently lost a partner, parent, child, sibling or a dear friend, the empty chair at the Christmas table can intensify the sorrow and bring about a complex mix of emotions. You may be reminded of the delicious feasts they cooked, the thoughtful (or quirky) presents they gave, or the silly stories they told. Whatever their trademark, and whether you found it annoying or not, you may find yourself sorely missing it – and them.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with such a significant loss during the holidays. But if you find you’re struggling, here are five suggestions which may help you through the Christmas period.

Allow yourself to grieve
Grieving is a normal response to losing a loved one. There is no set period or a ‘proper’ way to grieve. You shouldn’t yield to any pressure to move on and celebrate Christmas if don’t feel ready. On the other hand, if you wish to ‘lose’ yourself in the festivities, allow yourself to do so.

Acknowledge the departed
Some people avoid talking about the person who’s passed away, believing it will intensify their grief. However, this may deepen the sorrow, as the person becomes ‘more’ absent when they aren’t acknowledged or remembered. So, allow people to share stories – especially the funny ones. In this way, your loved one continues to be a part of your Christmas.

Take care of yourself
Even if you don’t feel up to it, make a point of looking after your health. Do your best to get enough sleep, eat well, be around loved ones and exercise regularly. Without these basic human needs, it’ll be more difficult to make sound decisions during this emotionally raw time.

Think ahead
Have a think about what you truly want to do this Christmas. Is being home alone really what you need? Do you want to host the Christmas feast at your place as usual, or would you rather someone else do it? There’s no right or wrong answer for such questions; just know what you want to do. It helps to listen to your inner self, and work out what will increase your ‘greater good’ – especially for your emotional health.

Celebrate a little differently
If celebrating the traditional way makes your loved one’s absence more painful, think about whether you want to do things a little differently. In this way, you may find new traditions over the years, while still acknowledging the person you have lost.

Karl Wolfenden, InvoCare Communications Manager says: “Grief occurs when life changes in ways we don’t expect. By being honest about what you can handle at Christmas and by finding positive ways to remember a loved one, yet not brushing over your loss, you may still be able to find comfort in this familiar time of year.”  

Let’s be honest, Christmases without a person who’s been significantly important in your life are never quite the same.  However, while the first Christmas you face after their death may feel raw, as the years go by, the loss becomes less painful. Instead, you may find the empty chair gets ‘filled’ with their loving and, at times, humorous memories.

More information about coping with grief at Christmas is available at 


Alone for Christmas

Not everyone has family and friends with whom to share the holiday season, sometimes through choice,

Why spending time alone is good for you

We could all do with spending a little more time alone. Here are five great reasons.

Eating alone encouraged

One restaurant is changing the face of solo dining forever.


Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

Health Insurance

Ageing baby boomers are missing out on health cover savings

Most older Australians see their health insurance premiums rise every year but don’t realise these high costs can be for...

Travel News

Vaccination no guarantee of open borders, says health minister

Australia's international border could remain closed even after the vaccination rollout is complete, according to health minister Greg Hunt. Mr...


The 'risk' of letting your grey hair grow out

At what point do you stop dyeing your hair and allow the grey to grow out? Is it after you...


Five running shoes reviewed

With the cooler weather, autumn and winter are arguably the best seasons to run in Australia, so it might be...


How large is Rupert Murdoch's reach in Australian media?

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd's petition to establish a royal commission into media diversity in Australia attracted more than half...


Coronary heart disease is the biggest killer of women worldwide

Heart attacks are still often seen as a 'male health' issue, yet coronary heart disease - which is the main...


Another vaccine ruled out as second blood clot case emerges

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced that a second case of blood clots is believed to be linked to...

Superannuation News

Super funds fight for changes to reforms

Your Super, Your Future legislation will be enacted within three months and leading players are weighing in on the impact...