How to Deal with Grief in the New Year Thumbnail

New Year's resolutions for the bereaved. Here is a list of ideas suitable for people entering a season of their lives during which they are bereaved of a loved one.

During grief, there is no such thing as a fresh start. Grief does not end with the calendar year, making it intimidating to face a whole new year ahead. A new year might bring new challenges, and we may wonder if we are capable of handling them. After losing a loved one, it's common to look back rather than forward. Moving forward can feel like we are leaving our loved one behind – a form of abandonment or betrayal of the person we care about.

As we move into a new year, it's important to remember that your pain is not forever. While the grieving process takes time, there is hope. By taking the right steps, individuals can ease their grief and be more prepared to face the future.

Accepting a New Year

In the midst of grief, simply making it through the day can be difficult. But, on the other hand, taking on a whole new year can seem impossible. We may fear moving forward without our loved one. We may feel unsure of our ability to handle more challenges. Experiencing emptiness and loneliness may also undermine our motivation for tackling another year ahead.

Our desire to return to the past can sometimes make us reluctant to accept a new beginning. The past was where we felt comfortable, safe, and content. Grief burdens our motivation, and those who suffer from grief often believe there is nothing to look forward to in the new year. They may long for the person they miss and wish they could relive the past.

The approach of a new year may have different meanings for people. Our response to a new year likely depends on where we are in the grieving process. The question is not when grief will appear but how an individual will work through it.

Grieving is a Process

Experiencing sudden, unexpected, or recent loss can lead to shock, making you feel as if you're living in a bad dream. Ruminating about the death of your loved one may leave you feeling numb or detached. Eventually, you may realize that your world has changed and your life is not what you expected. When this happens, starting a new year might be the last thing on your mind.

The grieving process is deeply personal, whose intensity and duration will vary depending on the individual. Experiencing loss is painful, and giving people time to express their grief is important. Even though grief is divided into stages, it may feel more like riding a roller coaster. As a result, bereaved people may feel like they are not making progress. A person may temporarily feel better, only to feel sad again soon after.

In the final stages of grief, a person comes to terms with the loss. While you may still miss your loved one, you can begin moving forward with your life. You might find comfort and joy in remembering the times you shared together. 

You may feel more confident to take on life's challenges and find the courage to try new things. As you steadily work through your grief, you may even anticipate the new year and wonder what it might bring. Once your grief has eased, it may even bring excitement to embrace change.

Ways to Cope with Grief in the New Year

When dealing with loss in the new year, don't lose hope. While it may seem like your life will never be the same, there are steps you can take to cope more easily. Embracing these seven tips can help you take on the new year despite your loss.

Go Easy on Yourself

While this may seem obvious, it can sometimes be difficult to do. Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Don't set deadlines for certain aspects of your life, like work or school, to return to normal. Finally, don't force yourself into thinking you should be over the loss. Take your time and be realistic about what you’re feeling.

While not setting goals may seem contradictory to healing and moving on, being kind to yourself is often the best resolution a griever can make moving into a new year.

Connect with Others

Life after grief can feel lonely. As you move into a new year, commit to connecting with people who make you feel happy and supported. Loss may cause you to gravitate toward individuals who have also experienced it, or you may prefer to be around people who are not connected to your experience. It may also be beneficial to distance yourself from those who have not been supportive or helpful.

Whether you need someone to talk to, who can bring joy into your life, or who understands what you're going through, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for support.

Make Time for Exercise

Bereavement can bring a range of difficult emotions, which people cope with differently. For some people, exercise can be a helpful tool for coping with grief and moving forward during times of difficulty. While exercise cannot eliminate grief, it can provide valuable support in coping with loss.

Physical activity improves mood and eases discomfort by releasing chemicals in the brain known as endorphins. While grief and depression are different, complicated grief, a type of loss that triggers strong emotional and physical reactions, can cause depression over time.

Whether biking, walking, or lifting weights, find an activity you enjoy and be consistent. If you don't like working out, that's OK. You can play with your grandkids or garden instead. There are many ways to stay active.

Recognize That You Are Not Leaving Your Loved One Behind

Stepping into a new year without your special person can leave you feeling like you're forgetting them. However, the opposite is true. Time may pass with the change of the calendar, but you will never forget your loved one, no matter how many years pass.

Think about how to carry your special person with you in the new year. Were there hobbies or goals that you both shared? Do you have any favorite memories of your time together? Be comforted in knowing their impact will never be forgotten.

Create Opportunities for Remembrance

As you begin a brand new year, consider ways in which you can formally remember your loved one. For example, start a scholarship fund, organize a memorial party, or participate in a walk/run in their honor. You could even donate a sapling, shrub, flower bed, or community garden to honor your loved one.

Remembering your loved one doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. Instead, consider simpler ways of remembering. For example, create a memorial scrapbook, frame a favorite photo of the person, or journal about your favorite memories.

Unite the Past with the Future

Making plans for the future can be difficult when it feels like the past hasn't been reconciled. As you begin a new year, consider starting a project that honors the past. Scrapbooks and journals are excellent tools for remembering the past and can help integrate painful memories with new beginnings. Creating one of these keepsakes allows you to celebrate your time together and remember your loved ones in the new year.

Your scrapbook or journal can include photos, poems, and scriptures. When creating your first memory book, start slow and go one page at a time. Your memories will accumulate over time, so you can cherish them for years to come.

Join a Support Group

Support from others can be invaluable when you're grieving. It can provide enormous relief and promote emotional healing. However, even the most supportive family and friends may not be able to understand what you're going through.

Taking part in a support group gives you a chance to learn from others who have been in a similar situation. Support groups can be found at your local church, community centers, and even online.

Seek Professional Support

While it's normal to experience difficult emotions after loss, certain manifestations of grief require professional evaluation and treatment. A mental health professional should be consulted if you are experiencing overwhelming sadness or anxiety, physical symptoms, sleep disturbances, or develop unhealthy behaviors. Working with a grief therapist can help you cope with loss more effectively and find solutions for moving forward.

Compassionate Care for Grief

When you lose someone you love, the new year can bring a flood of emotions. Starting over may seem overwhelming when the future looks hopeless. However, grieving doesn't mean forgetting about your loved ones as a new year begins. Instead, begin a new chapter, taking happiness and fond memories along with you.

If you're struggling to move forward, know that you are not alone. CHE Behavioral Health Services offers compassionate, comprehensive care for life after loss. Through supportive listening and effective healing techniques, our professionals remain by your side, guiding you to find solutions for moving forward.

For more information about grief and treatment options available at CHE Behavioral Health Services, please call 888-515-3834. We are ready to talk, and ready to listen.