Grief and the New Year
A loved one’s death changes the way we view New Year. As your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues celebrate and make resolutions for the new year, you may start to feel more alone than ever.
There is a nostalgia that comes with grieving and the passing of time, and there is nothing more poignant than the beginning of a new year.
Living each day as it comes can be difficult when we are grieving. It can sometimes be daunting to look ahead to a whole new year, especially one or another one without your loved one. We may find that we are apprehensive about what lies ahead.
There may be concerns about our abilities to handle any upcoming challenges. We may be hesitant to face a new year in the wake of our recent experiences of loneliness and emptiness.
The New Year is a marker in time and often heightens emotions relating to the loss. Some of us may have felt equivocal as we transitioned into the new year. Another part of us may have been digging our heels, while another part is dreading the New Year.
There is a possibility you are burdened by grief today and are concerned about what the new year will bring. You may long for the precious person you miss and remember the beautiful times you had together. Your thoughts may wander back to what you had, and you wish you were back there.
The New Year is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. You may be struggling particularly hard at this time if you have lost a loved one. As a result of the new year, emotions and expectations often rush in.
Often, the idea of starting over in the new year can feel unwanted, even overwhelming.
While others may be excited, optimistic, and making resolutions, and looking to the future; a bereaved person may find New Year’s reflections and resolutions to trigger intense feelings of loneliness and loss.
No matter how long ago your loved one died or how recent, when you are grieving, New Year’s never passes without you thinking of and yearning for the person you loved and lost. You can expect to feel strong emotions during this time. Don’t be surprised if you aren’t sure what to do.
Whatever you are feeling, please own it rather than denying it or suppressing it. Rather than judge or feel ashamed of your feelings, acknowledge them as they are. As a result, you will have the space to heal what hurts while cherishing the memories that endure.
Different bereaved individuals will experience different feelings concerning the new year. In general, we can welcome, dread, or can ignore a new year according to where we are in our grieving process.
This often feels better than wondering whether we will experience grief more or less, the question that often remains on our minds is HOW will we cope with grief in the New Year?
New Year’s resolutions for coping with grief.
Be honest about your feelings:
Essentially, this means allowing yourself to experience the emotions you’re feeling, rather than trying to be ‘your usual self’, or feeling pressured to adhere to ‘normal’ New Year’s celebrations and rituals.
Focus on Self-care
Be compassionate towards yourself and focus on self-care rather than self-improvement.
It may be better to skip the typical New Year’s resolutions in the new year when you are grieving and instead focus on self-care for your grieving mind, body, and spirit.
The simple things your body and mind need to support you during a loss are getting good sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising. In the case of exhaustion from caregiving or acute grief, take time to focus on your physical recovery.
Give yourself a mental break. Reorient your mind by replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations about yourself and soothing yourself with music, prayer, uplifting literature, laughter and tears.
Think about these things from the perspective of self-care instead of self-improvement, which many resolutions suggest.
Put your own twist on “Happy New Year.”
When you are grieving like most people, the idea of being happy may be far too far away from where you are right now. However, since you will hear these words repeatedly, make sure you incorporate them into your self-care routine.
In the place of feeling bad for not feeling happy or angry that someone would think you could feel happy, use these three words to send yourself compassion.
Try this: Each time you see or hear “Happy New Year,” offer yourself words of kindness that resonate with you. For example, “May this New Year deal me a kind hand” or “I will take each day in my stride.”
This way, you don’t just put yourself back in control, so you have some control over your experience, you also have a bell of awareness that tells you that you need to take care of yourself.
Speak with someone who understands grief If you are experiencing grief, you might find it helpful to talk with someone who understands what you are going through. This could be a friend who has also gone through bereavement, a trained volunteer, a bereavement support group, a counsellor or a therapist.
With your New Year calendar, prioritise your grief work.
Make a plan to make sure you can support yourself this year by using your new calendar rather than just scheduling things you have to do.
The holidays and anniversaries are especially challenging for many people who have experienced grief. Write down those important dates on your calendar and decide what you’ll do with those special days. It may help reduce your anxiety if you know what you will do on these special grief days.
Be sure to connect with others, unless you really prefer to spend time alone, whether you go for a walk or have coffee over Zoom on the anniversary of your loved one’s death, or join a wider circle of friends and family to reminisce on their birthday.
After a period of courage in dealing with your grief, you will eventually find the strength to look forward to the new year with anticipation and wonder about what it has to offer. Your grief may begin to ease, and you will feel eager to welcome change.
In knowing that you did the best you could and loved well, you might feel comfort and joy. You now have a more profound sense of compassion for those who suffer based on the love you once had.
Grief is best handled by processing and growing from it rather than pretending it doesn’t exist or wishing it away.
One day, you will realise that life is a gift to be enjoyed with all who cross your path. Perhaps one day, you will want to do the things you hoped to accomplish with each other on your own. The door to this new year can still be opened a crack even if you’re scared and lonely.