For many of those who are grieving, the concept of a new year may be daunting. Particularly if you have recently lost a loved one, this may be the first year you endure without them in your life. When a loved one passes away, everything changes. What was once familiar now seems foreign and the idea of tackling a new year full of unknowns and uncharted territory can be intimidating and even scary. This feeling is completely normal—even if it’s been years since your loved one passed away. Keep reading for some simple suggestions on how to embrace the New Year with a spirit of hope and love.
Be kind to yourself
Some people may feel as if expressing grief or admitting that you are struggling emotionally is a sign of weakness. You may become frustrated with yourself and wonder why you can’t just “be happier.” Particularly when the new year approaches, you may be told to take advantage of this fresh start and forget the grief and pain from the past year. While the New Year can certainly be seen as this “fresh start” it is all dependent on where you are in your grief journey. Grief is not a process that can be rushed or skipped over—don’t become discouraged with yourself if you don’t feel a certain way at a certain time. Instead, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend who recently lost a loved one. Give yourself time to heal. Grief doesn’t have a time limit.
Use a calendar
It’s common after losing a loved one to feel as if every day is the same, as if you’re just going through the motions instead of actually living your life. Another common problem some people face is the good-intentioned invitations from family and friends to go out to dinner, attend an event, etc. in an effort to uplift the griever’s mood, which can be overwhelming to someone who is grieving. To remedy both these issues, it’s a good idea to get a large calendar at the beginning of the year. Start your year by scheduling appointments with yourself. Maybe it’s a Friday night movie, or simply reserving a time for you to read a good book. Whatever the case may be, visualizing your life and scheduling time for you to do the activities that you enjoy will help make your days more meaningful. On a more practical note, scheduling these appointments ahead of time can serve as a polite way to decline an invitation. The best part? If you ever do want to spend time with family or friends, it’s very easy to cancel an appointment with yourself!
Energize your mind and body
Losing a loved one exhausts both your mind and body. This leads to an overall lack of motivation to be active. While it may be hard at first, a good resolution for grievers is to devote some time each day to be physically and emotionally active. Being physically active doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, or a short bike ride. To exercise your mind, read a good book or listen to some music that you enjoy. The combination of both mind and body can help you regain a sense of presence and strengthen your resolve. (Hint: Use the calendar mentioned above to schedule these activities in advance!)
Focus on the journey and not the destination
As the old saying suggests, so many people in this world are too focused on reaching a certain destination that they forget to appreciate the journey they take along the way. This same principle can be applied to grief. Many people who are grieving want to skip ahead to a time where they can be completely happy again and obtain acceptance of their loved one’s death. While everyone certainly finds happiness, there will always be a part of their hearts dedicated to their loved one. Grief is not about reaching a level of happiness or acceptance, but rather growing as a person and learning a new way to live. Grief is not a test, but an experience. Entering into this New Year, focus more on what you can learn about yourself, life, or love. Focus less on societal and personal expectations for yourself.
Do some reflective journaling
Journaling can be a very therapeutic and constructive way to work through your grief. At the beginning of the year, write down a few things your loved one would want for you in the coming year. If you have a hard time brainstorming, think about if the roles were reversed—what would you wish for your loved one if you were the one to pass away? Try to think of different states of mind or attitudes you’d want your loved one to practice after your passing and write them down. As the year progresses, look at this list and try pursue those outcomes.
Choose to walk with God each day
Even after following every suggestion and doing your very best, there will still be days when you feel lonely or discouraged. Use these instances to grow closer to Christ. He is the one person who will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. When you have these bad days, take a step back and spend some time reflecting on God’s eternal love for you.
Post written by Katie Karpinski