New Years and it’s traditions usually symbolizes a time for renewal, hope, motivation, and opportunity…to shift your attitude, start something new, or try to quit something (again). But for some who are deep in their feelings of grief, it is just another day. Or the resolutions are much more profound than the average person.
2016 brought the loss of dozens of significant and talented public and key figures. There have been many nationwide dedications honoring these individuals, creating a strew of emotions for our population. But the deaths that leave people overcome with sadness are those whom we were close to us; family and friends – those that were our key figures in every day life.
This year, I have several clients who have lost a person like that: a young mother, a husband, a father, an aunt, and a twin brother.
All loss hurts.
But when you lose someone who existed in your thoughts and/or life on a daily basis, it can be paralyzing. The emotional pain can be unyielding and New Years can have very little meaning, reminding you of what is missing rather than what is to come. It can be hard to know how to be, or what to do. One thing is for certain – your grief cannot be set aside, or ignored. It needs time, respect, and love.
Here are 7 Ways to Honor Your Grief During the New Years Hullabaloo:
1. Be aware of, and acknowledge, your grief. Awareness of your inner process is key to honoring it. If you have lost someone important to you and are not making some sort of self-care plan, most likely you are not doing what is needed. When grieving, you jump around between the stages. So, you might be jumping back to the stage of Denial, which means the other stages of Anger, Bargaining, and Depression could suddenly hit you pretty hard. And the stage of Acceptance is far in the distance.
2. Do whatever the heck you want, with awareness and on purpose. Do not obligate yourself to anyone or anything. It is okay to make plans, just make sure it is out of desire, not because you “should” or “have to”. Be okay with consciously isolating: staying home, doing your own thing, and focusing on #6 and #7. If that looks like making a huge bowl of popcorn and watching your favorite movie, then great. If that looks like crying yourself to sleep, then okay. Just do it with awareness and on purpose. Own it.
3. Be around people you trust. Choose your grief tribe wisely. That way, if you suddenly need to cry, or you have a surge of anger, or even a panic attack – you will feel safe. Feeling safe and understood is one of the most important parts of moving through the grief process.
4. Have a self-care plan for whatever feelings come up. Regardless of where you are, or who is with you – let yourself be with your emotions. Make a plan on what you will do if you feel an emotional wave comes up. Wherever you are, look for your possible places of solitude: balconies, bathrooms, garages, hallways, dark corners, bedrooms, beaches, etc. One main suggestion for a self-care plan: find that place and then start to breathe deeply or do Stress Relief Breaths. Couple that with Reality Awareness and talking to yourself in a kind and compassionate way. Keep in mind: when a person is in grief, they are usually regressed in emotional age – so take care of yourself in that moment like you would a hurting child: with love, nurture, hugs, and comfort.
5. Over-communicate what’s happening. Communication is everything. When you share with people where you are at in your head and heart, and what you plan to do, you really take care of yourself. Communicate to the people you are with, especially your grief tribe, who can be your voice if needed. If you are at another person’s gathering, make sure they are okay with you doing #4. If you do not want to communicate verbally, then send them an email or a text. Write a note. Just say something.
6. Begin a New Year ritual in honor of that person. Some suggestions:
• A toast at midnight. Perhaps with that person’s drink of choice.
• A moment of silence at midnight, or some time on New Years Day, dedicated to that person. That can include sitting silently, or talking to that person.
• Do something that the two of you would have done together if s/he were there.
• Start something dedicated to that person: A journal: writing letters to that person whenever you want, but specifically on special days throughout the year. A memory jar or box: a place where you put a note, memory, or whatever you want to honor that person.
7. Set one New Year’s resolution/goal/intention/whatever you’d like to call it with that person in mind. If you are a resolution setter, then perhaps dedicate something specific to that person – something they would have done with you, or would have liked to see you do.
Whatever you decide, do so with zero attachment to following through.
Yes, that is opposite of what is usually done during the New Year’s traditions. However, when you are deep in the grief process fluidity is an integral part of what is needed to honor that grief: to have very little expectations of yourself, and to give yourself permission to go with whatever comes up. There is no timeline or formula for grief. It comes when it comes, and it demands attention. It is a wave of emotion that needs to pass. The most effective thing to do when it appears: say hello and spend some time with it. Honor it the way you would if that very person you lost came to you needing support.