Festive Support

Once Upon a Smile can provide you with emotional and practical support at your time of need to enable you to adjust to a new life without your loved one.

We support children and families when a parent/guardian or sibling has died. We pride ourselves in tailoring our support to the needs of each individual family.

We accept online referrals from health, education and other oragnisations, as well as self-referrals.

No two people grieve in the same way

Please remember that no two people will grieve in the same way.

Some family members may want to celebrate Christmas, and some may not feel like celebrating at all, there is no right or wrong way. The important thing is to find a safe space to have open conversations about how each of you are feeling.

Christmas can trigger some BIG feelings; it is important to give children a voice and to listen to each other in a sensitive way that considers everyone’s wishes, where practical.

Some families like to keep the Christmas traditions they had before their loved one died, and some like to do something different. The earlier these conversations are had, the lighter you may feel in the build-up and on the day itself.

Whilst there in no right or wrong way to manage your Christmas, what matters is that you do what feels right for you and your family and remember that its ok for your plans to change.

School Support

Check in with your child’s teacher to see what is planned during the festive period. Festivities and assemblies can be quite difficult for some children therefore the key person can find out what your child wants to join in with.

Be kind to yourself when around family and friends

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and don’t feel obliged to ‘hold it together’. Many families have shared with us that they have felt the need to do this, especially in front of extended family and friends who are hosting them for Christmas. Having early conversations with family and friends may bring comfort to everyone.

You could use the below examples of how to have these conversations.

Friends and family

‘We may feel a little overwhelmed over the festive period, we may need to take time out during the day to have a little rest, please don’t feel we don’t appreciate you or that you have done something wrong’

‘We are not sure how we will feel on Christmas day, please do not be offended if we only stay a little while, we are very grateful for your invite’

For you and your children

‘I am feeling a little sad right now, I am missing mummy a lot today. I am just going to sit down for a while and spend a little time to look after myself. If this is something you need to do today, then that’s ok too’.

‘Christmas can still be exciting, no one has any expectations on how you should feel. It’s perfectly normal to still have fun and laugh today, there may be times when you feel sad and that’s ok too.’

Christmas Day Traditions

When your loved one was a huge part of your traditional Christmas it can often feel overwhelming to stay at home.

The festive season can bring back memories that intensify feelings. You may want to continue with traditions, and you may feel comfort in doing so or you may want to do something different. It may feel overwhelming to cook a traditional Christmas dinner, if so, it’s okay to cook something completely different.

Here are a few simple ideas if you choose to do something different this year.

Writing and receiving Christmas cards

There are no rules when it comes to writing Christmas cards, but something many families struggle with. Writing cards for the very first time without including a loved one can be a heartfelt moment. Send them if it feels right for you but don’t put pressure on yourself to do so. If you want to include your loved one in the card but not sure how, you may choose to write ‘from the Jones family’

Many parents ask if they should write their child a card from the person who has died, this is personal to you, we would suggest making them aware that you wrote the card in memory of their loved one to prevent younger children from magically thinking that their loved one is still here.

Some people may not be aware your loved one has died or may not know what to write. Seeing your loved one’s name in a card may bring comfort or sadness, please know this is not personal and people are trying their best to support your feelings.

Putting a tree up

‘My husband would always get the tree out of the loft, he would sit for hours untangling the lights, we would celebrate the switch on with laughter and love. We would put the tree up as a family whilst stuffing our faces with mince pies and listening to festive music, the thought of doing this without him for the first time in 27 years fills me with dread’

So many adults tell us that they don’t want to put a tree up, and again, there’s no right or wrong answer. For some it’s a difficult decision to make as it welcomes many anticipated feelings to the build up of Christmas. The absence of tiny rituals can be hard to face but many children love decorating trees, so maybe you will choose to do things slightly different this year to ensure everyone’s wishes are considered.


Some people feel guilty for carrying on with celebrations, but please remember you are all deserving of happiness.

You will have good and difficult days but what is important is that you look after each other.

Here are a few ideas that families have shared with us:

Below are some ideas that you can do with your children, remember to give them a choice, where practical.

  • Light a special candle
  • Visit a special place
  • Pull a Christmas cracker in memory of your loved one Set up a craft table with paints, paper etc
  • Personalise a Christmas ornament
  • Embrace happy memories you shared
  • Listen to their favourite music
  • Make their favourite recipes
  • String a garland of memories together
  • Make a memory table runner
  • Make a tree topper in memory
  • Watch a favourite film
  • Arrange a family walk
  • Have cuddles on the sofa with a warm blanket