Coping with Grief in the New Year

Winter in itself can be an emotionally difficult time, both for those who are grieving and those who are facing the standard challenges of daily life. The days are shorter, and thus it seems the sun is not shining on us in our time of need. The weather is cold to remind us that we are capable of being alone and exposed. With all of this in mind, the New Year can seem to be a daunting and frightening hurdle to jump as it looms closer to us, reminding us that it will be the first, the third, or maybe the twentieth year we have spent missing our loved ones and the connection and warmth they offered during their lifetime. There are ways, however, no matter how hard it may seem, to make sure that your New Year is bright even when despair looms large in our hearts. Remembering that the New Year is not only a time to look back and reflect, but a time to turn forward and hope for a brighter future can help to see the value in the continued struggle. It can seem difficult to face a New Year if you are missing someone, but there are ways to make sure that you are living the rest of your own life in their honor, and to shed the regrets and darkness that may be weighing us down. Here are just a couple of ways to think about the New Year, see if they can lighten the load even just a little:

1. Resolutions:
Of course, resolutions are promises to ourselves that we are going to go forward with a specific goal or destination in mind. Many people find resolutions to be very difficult to achieve, and this could be because we often think in extremes. For example, maybe someone’s resolution is to “Lose 30 pounds” or “Smile Every Day”. While these are admirable dreams, and ones that are absolutely possible, specific resolutions like these can seem heavy and make us feel inadequate when we miss a day of smiling, or eat and extra slice of cake on your birthday. Changing your resolution to be something that is both achievable and a little more vague can also help to change your perspective to look at yourself in a more positive light. “Lose 30 Pounds” can transform into “Make healthier choices” and “Smiling Every Day” can be “Look on the Bright Side More Often”. This way, small accomplishments like choosing a salad for lunch can be small accomplishments that lead to looking on the bright side, thus accomplishing two resolutions at once! You can also make your resolutions more focussed on your loved one. Maybe completing a goal or project they had been looking forward to in life can help you to feel closer to them over the course of the next year. I found a quote that reads “Strive for progress, not perfection”, and I take this into account any time I make a resolution or promise to myself.

2. Wish Bags:
Wish Bags are a tradition started by a close friend of mine that we now create every year while watching the Ball Drop. Wish Bags are small lunch bags that you draw depictions of your wishes for the new year on. This can be anything from small symbols like hearts and dollar signs to elaborate drawings of cars, pets, and more specific wishes. Once the clock strikes 12am on 1.1 of that year, you blow up the bag with air and pop it. This releases your wishes into the universe in the hopes that the magic of the New Year will help them come through. Having done it every year for several years, I can say that it does fill each participant with a sense of hope for what the New Year will bring.

3. Spread Positive Feelings:
Although it can be difficult to feel positive when you are down, and forcing yourself to can have the opposite effect, allowing yourself to feel the positive energy around you during New Year celebrations can open you up to looking at the New Year with a more hopeful attitude. Something I always remind people, especially my clients, is that it is okay to be sad, okay to cry and okay to feel lost and hopeless every once in a while. It is these negative feelings that help us to see the value in our lives and the lives of those still physically with us. The trick is not to wallow in the negative, and find a way to make your light shine through the darkness. This is just a reminder that taking care of yourself in the New Year should be your top priority, because this is what allows you to spread these positive views and feelings to others. There is a reason they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first. :)

Having written all of this, I want to acknowledge that none of these suggestions are permanent fixes or solutions for grief. These are just ways that I have found to make the idea of facing another year without someone that you love a little easier to take. Make sure to feel everything next year, the bad and the good, and take everything in stride. Remember to love yourself and what you have, and do your best to stay positive, especially on the roughest of roads. Remember that there are others all over the world facing similar struggles, and you are not and will never be alone with such kindred spirits around you. The New Year is a point of connection for not just your small sphere, but people from every walk of life, every country and community all over the planet. Keep this in mind, and my hope is that you feel like you are able to smile at 12:01am on January 1st.