Grief is as unique as a snowflake. With its many facets and fractals, there is no telling how we will react to the loss of a loved one, and just as each snowflake is unique, so, too, is each individual’s grief. While much of grief is uncertain, we do know that regardless of how we grieve, we share a need for our grief to be witnessed

Music can serve as a witness to our grief—especially during the holidays. We recognize that not everyone celebrates Christmas. However, for those who do, we understand that Christmas can bring a wave of emotions. Therefore, we’ve curated an Eterneva Holiday Playlist of Christmas songs that may be helpful to individuals grieving during this time of year, as they encourage us to be present in our emotions, relive previous memories, and find hope in the days ahead. 

5 Sad Holiday Songs that Allow You to Be Present in Your Grief 

Studies reveal there is a connection to listening to “sad songs” and coping with loss. Because each song is essentially a story with a beginning, middle, and end, it provides a naturally contained space for us to lean into our feelings. Sometimes we find comfort in simply knowing that we have three to four minutes to fully accept our grief and move forward with our day.  

1.“Christmases When You Were Mine” 
Performed by Taylor Swift | Written by Taylor Swift ,Liz Rose, and Nathan Chapman

One of the wonderful things about this song is its ambiguity. The lyrics do not explicitly state what kind of loss the song is about, whether a death, a breakup, or otherwise. Therefore, it presents as a Christmas song about lost loved ones that can span different types of losses, and is relatable to anyone mourning a loss on Christmas who does not feel as joyous as those around them.”

2. “A Different Kind of Christmas” 

Performed by LeAnn Rimes | Written by Jud J. Friedman, Leann Rimes, Allan Rich, Pete Amato

People who are grieving the loss of their father (or father figure) at Christmas will feel seen by this song. By acknowledging the new lens with which we view the world when someone we love is gone, the song validates the sense of feeling lost this time of year that is meant to be filled with holiday cheer. 

3. “Where Are You Christmas” 

Performed by Faith Hill | Written by James Horner and Will Jennings

This song, known for its debut on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a melancholy song that ultimately provides a glimmer of hope. It speaks to the way grief can upend our world, but even if we’re lost, Christmas lives inside us and “fills each and every heart with love.” 

4. “The Christmas Shoes” 

Performed by NewSong | Written by Eddie Carswell, Leonard Ahlstrom, and Isaiah Daniel 

If you’re in the mood for a good cry, grab some tissues and turn on “The Christmas Shoes.” This relentlessly sentimental holiday classic paints a portrait of a young boy who doesn’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother, who he wants "to look beautiful, if she meets Jesus tonight."

5. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

Performed by Darlene Love | Written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector.

The sentiment of this song is a person wishing their loved one would come home for the holidays, and reflecting on all the fun they had the year before. The lyrics acknowledge that, although the snow is falling and people are singing “Deck the Halls,” the person is not in the Christmas spirit because they are missing their special someone. 

5 Nostalgic Holiday Songs for Remembering Good Times 

Memories are one of the greatest gifts we have, especially when it comes to remembering loved ones who have passed on. Reflecting on all the good times we shared with them helps us move forward in a positive way and appreciate the time we were given with them. 

1.“Somewhere In My Memory” 

Performed by Nick Pitera | Written by John Williams and Leslie Bricusse 

Recognized as the main title of the classic Home Alone, “Somewhere In My Memory” is a Christmas canticle about joy and the true reason for the season. From “precious moments” to “happy faces,” it invites us to remember the wonderful Christmases we’ve enjoyed over the years with the ones we love most. 

2. “Believe” 

Performed by Josh Groban | Written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri 

To a child, the magic of Christmas is unparalleled. As we grow older and experience some of the hardships that unfortunately come with life, we may lose sight of what’s important. This song speaks to those of us who have lost our way, and encourages us to believe in our dreams. After all, there’s so much to celebrate. 

3. “Merry Christmas Darling” 

Performed by The Carpenters | Written by Frank Poole and Richard Carpenter

The magic of the holidays is that they can still offer hope and joy even in the darkest of times. In Merry Christmas, Darling, the narrator is without her beloved, but she knows “I can dream and in my dreams, I’m Christmasing with you.” This beautiful song shows us that by remembering our loved ones during the holidays, we can keep them close. 

4. “Let It Be Christmas”

Performed by Alan Jackson | Written by Alan Jackson

This country song not only describes the beautiful sights during Christmas, but invites us to let go of anger, hate, and fear, and instead, open ourselves up to “love that lasts through the year.” It’s mellow, pleasing to the ear, and a must-play during the holiday season. 

5. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” 

Performed by Sam Smith | Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine

Is there a better song to reflect on the “olden days of yore” than “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas?” This classic carol is absolutely transportive as it takes us through a snowy stroll down memory lane with “faithful friends who are dear to us.” Listening to this song will have you feeling reminiscent and at peace as, if only for a moment, your troubles begin to melt away.

5 Hopeful Holiday Songs to Lift Your Spirit

When darkness falls, hope is a glimmer of brightness. The important thing to remember about grief is that it is temporary. If we acknowledge and work through our emotions, we will discover that there is life after loss. 

1.“Better Days” 

Performed by the Goo Goo Dolls | Written by Johnny Rzeznik

Originally commissioned as a holiday CD, the Goo Goo Dolls’ album Let Love In featuring their single, Better Days, became an anthem as America recovered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. However, with lyrics that point to not needing boxes wrapped in string and a promise of better days, the song offers an uplifting message to those of us seeking brightness in the new year. 

2.“Christmas in Heaven” 

Performed by Scotty McCreery | Written by Unknown  

“Christmas in Heaven” is a gorgeously written and performed song that paints an aspirational picture of the beauty that awaits after life on this Earth. While it tugs on the heartstrings, it reminds us that our loved ones are in a better place, where there’s “snow falling down on the streets of gold, and mansions all covered in white.” 

3.“Do You Hear What I Hear?” 

Performed by Carrie Underwood | Written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shay Baker

What is at first glance thought to be a classic Christmas song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is laced with gripping allegory, as it was written in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this time, Americans were waiting with bated breath, listening to their radios to see if they had been obliterated; meanwhile, songwriters Noel Regney and Gloria Shay Baker were tasked with writing a Christmas song. The mention of “a child,” and the “shepherd boy” certainly places it in the Christmas context; however, the “trail as big as a kite” is in reference to both the biblical star that led the Magi to the Christ child and a nuclear missile. Ultimately, this is a hopeful song as people prayed for, and believe in, the good of the world. 

4.“Merry Christmas” 

Performed by Ed Sheeran and Elton John | Written by Ed Sheeran, Elton John, and Steve Mac

Two kings of pop come together to sing a festive Christmas song about celebrating after a tough year. This cheery little number is about moving forward and appreciating the people who have been there for you in the past and present, because “next year, you never know.” 

5. “The Light of the World”

Performed by Lauren Daigle | Written by Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, and Paul Duncan 

“The world waits for a miracle, the heart longs for a little bit of hope,” are the lyrics that launch this uplifting song. By reflecting on the 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament, Daigle encourages people to find strength and peace in knowing that the Messiah will come and bring light to the world again. 

The Healing Power of Music 

Music connects. Music heals. Ultimately… music listens. Through songs that acknowledge our grief, we feel heard and understood, and when we feel understood, we feel safe to access and accept our deepest emotions. 

To explore more about the healing power of music, our Songs for Grieving article may help you discover more songs to help you through a difficult time. 

If you are missing someone special this year, we hope you find peace in remembering the good times you shared together. To add a touch of brightness, check out our article on 13 meaningful ways to honor your departed loved one this holiday season

We hope Eterneva's Holiday Playlist on Spotify serves as an easy way for you to find Christmas songs about lost loved ones when you need it most. Wishing you warmth and brightness.