If you have lost a loved one, facing the lead in to Christmas is hard enough – next comes facing a New Year. Yet another year spent without your special someone. Yet another year to work out how to live when your loved one no longer lives with you.
Sometimes the hardest thing is letting others know whether you want or need the distraction of a night out, or whether you would rather not celebrate at all. If you are journeying with a friend who has lost a loved one, it can also be difficult to know what to do or say.
The First Light Widowed Association recently shared the image below on their Facebook page offering tips on being proactive and doing rather than offering to do that will often make a much bigger difference.
If someone you love and care about is experiencing grief, click here to read Zinta Harris’ personal blog “Supporting others in grief – 10 do’s and don’ts”.
For many of our clients who have lost loved ones, Christmas and then the lead in to New Year can be one of the hardest times of the year. This period is made harder because the rest of the world is seemingly caught up in the festivities of this season at a time when grief presses in hard.
Celebrating a New Year after the loss of a loved one will never be the same. You will feel alone, whether you are with others or not. You will hear others speak of new beginnings and excitement at a brand new year when you can’t find a way to move forward let alone find something to get excited about. It will be one of many “anniversary” moments you will have to journey through. So, it is important to work out how you might do that in a way that means you survive, rather than get pulled under by yet another wave of grief.
If you are suffering the loss of the loved, here are some tips to help you try to manage your grief during New Year.
1. Embracing your grief
That might sound like an odd thing to suggest. Your grief is with you constantly like it or not! Some of you reading might be wishing your grief away most days, wondering when you will ever stop feeling sad.
We are not suggesting you wallow in the grief, but rather that you acknowledge that the grief might be quite intense particularly at this time of year, and be ready to embrace that as part of this season. Embrace it in a positive way, knowing that feeling grief is but another expression of your love.
Grief is the last act of love we have to give those we loved. Where there is deep grief there is great love.
If we have loved others deeply, we will inevitably know deep loss and grief. Seeing grief as an extension of love can make it easier to embrace and accept as it surfaces at times like Christmas and New Year.
2. Adjusting traditions
New Years Eve much like Christmas is often full of “traditions”. You may have spent NYE with your loved one at the same holiday location, chosen different things to do each year or enjoyed the evening quietly at home. Think about the traditions you have and how you feel about keeping them or changing them.
Sometimes doing what you have always done will help you maintain a sense of “routine” that might help you navigate the day. Sometimes doing things differently can help you acknowledge that things will never be the same while at the same time marking the new year in a new way.
There is no right or wrong way – only your unique way and that will take time to think out, try out and see what works best for you depending on how you are feeling at the time. Planning ahead for these typically painful triggers can mean they have less of an impact on the day.
3. Include your loved one
Even though your loved one isn’t here with you anymore, you can still include them in your New Years Eve. Some families have put together memory books that they read over at anniversary times, others light a candle or a sparkler for their loved one. Others write a note to their loved one as a way of sharing how much they are missed each year.
Most find it important to share memories of their loved ones with others who will share theirs too. If you “hear” your loved one’s voice or their laugh pop up in conversations – include them by sharing with others what they would’ve said or what they would’ve done. In doing these things we keep our loved ones “alive”.
I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.
4. Take care of yourself
Taking care of your own physical and mental wellbeing is so important when trying to handle the stress that comes with surviving the Christmas / New Year period while managing grief. Be aware of extremes – eating or drinking too much, sleeping too much or not enough. Take breaks through the day as you need to – go for a walk, or get some fresh air. Have an “escape plan” or a signal to share with a trusted support person if you feel overwhelmed.
5. Finding hope
We know that it is terribly hard when you are in the depths of the pain of grief to imagine a time when you might feel joy again. Just as it is hard to imagine where to begin when you look across the forever-altered landscape of your life, at the devastation left behind by the “tsunami like” wave that ripped through your existence.
We know you feel indescribable pain and heaviness now, but it will not be like this forever. Your life, shattered as it is, lies ahead of you.Your story continues. In time, when you are ready, you will begin to see new pathways to take through this foreign land of life after loss. Your eyes will see the potential for new things, seeds of hope will grow into new dreams and you will rebuild your life around the grief you have learned to embrace as a new part of you. Broken and scarred yes – but somehow more fully and deeply alive.
Knowing there is hope for that future is key.
For some New Years Eve is a “good riddance” to a bad year, to others it is a celebration of survival – but for most it signals the start of another chapter, the turning of a new page – which for many speaks of a hope for a better (or at least a different) future.
So, to you who grieve this New Years Eve, know that you are not alone. Know that you are surrounded by many who know grief as intimately as you and many more who love you and will do their best to walk with you, cry with you, steady you and distract you so that you survive not only New Years but the year to come – every single day for as long as it takes.