The start of a new year reminds us all that time is passing. Sometimes it seems to go so quickly and other times life can be painstakingly slow. Taking some time to consider how moving into the next year affects your grief could help your healing process. You might have many realizations about your loss hit you at various times over the next few days to weeks. This is a new year, a year that will not include your deceased loved one. You’ll hear yourself say phrases like, “She died last year,” or, “He died in 2015,” and you’ll be struck by how far away you feel from the days they lived and the day they died. In a sense, your loved one may feel more distant, unreachable. Consider this:
- Allow yourself to acknowledge the start of the new year as part of your grief. Think about what the new year means for you and your loss. Let yourself have whatever thoughts come and feel whatever feelings stir.
- You may wrestle with mixed emotions about the end of 2015. Perhaps you feel relieved to be ending 2015 but at the same time feel disloyal, as though you’re leaving your deceased loved one behind or being forced to let go of them too soon.
- The end of 2015 might feel like yet another loss and could exacerbate your grief symptoms for a short time. Take extra good care of yourself now and at all times while grieving.
- Maybe you’re ready to leave 2015 in the dust. Perhaps you’ve been eager to start a new year, a fresh beginning with the hopes of feeling better with the turn of the calendar.
We have to remember one thing. There’s nothing easy about going through grief and there is no magic way to healing. The only way, the only healthy way, to get to and through the New Year is to think about it. And feel about it. Today. Because tomorrow you will do it again, for tomorrow. And time will pass that way for a while, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, eventually easing your pain and anguish of losing your loved one. Thanks to time, you’ll been able to learn how to still love them in the next year while they remain in your past. Peaceful New Year.
When is all this holiday cheer going to end? I’m so sick of the lights, the tinsel, make it stop! Everyone is so merry and bright and it’s grating on my every nerve! If I hear one more clang of that dinging bell in front of the grocery store I will lose it!
Other people have no idea what I’m going through. They’re all so holly and jolly and I all I want to do stay in bed until January 2nd. The lump in my throat won’t go away and even the thought of eggnog makes my sick stomach sicker. Every Christmas carol I hear sends me into a fit of tears. Don’t they get it? Don’t they know? None of this stuff matters, not now and not ever.
After losing my love I couldn’t care less about presents and snow and lights and the glow. The best part of celebrating was about being with them and this season without them feels empty and wrong. Will I ever feel better again? Will I ever have that Christmas cheer back in my heart? It’s almost too unbearable to take. That’s why I’m crawling back under my covers, putting earplugs in, only to emerge on January 2nd, 2016 when things can go back to “normal”, whatever that is. Have a very
un-Merry Christmas and hurry-up New Year!!!
Children who are grieving have their own difficulties getting through the holidays but the adults in their lives can help make it easier on them. Their little brains are trying to understand what’s happened. Death is just as confusing to them as it is to us as adults. Here are just some ideas to consider as you help a little one through.
- Set limits. Children can easily get tired during the holidays, even more so if going through grief. Be sure to schedule in rest, utilize down time and have your child get plenty of sleep.
- Allow your child to feel however they choose throughout the holidays. Don’t expect them to always be cheerful when they’re going through loss.
- Unless your tears and emotions are completely unmanageable, try not to hide your own sorrow or feelings of grief from children, even if it is a holiday or a special occasion. It is okay for children to understand what the appropriate response is when we lose someone we love. If they are 5 years old, they’ll understand that sometimes we cry when we’re sad. A 10 year old child might cry with you for a minute, feeling connected in that shared emotion. If they are 15, they might roll their eyes and pretend they’re annoyed that you can’t control your emotions all the while secretly feeling validated and reassured that they aren’t the only one thinking about their loved one.
- By acknowledging a child’s loss and grief feelings, you give them the reassurance that grief is normal and that there is nothing wrong with them. Validating their thoughts and feelings means you might have to admit you’re sad, that you miss that person too.
- Keep an atmosphere that is open for them to ask questions or talk about the deceased. By doing this you can actually enhance your connection with that child and strengthen the bond between you.
- Tradition. Consider keeping some of the same holiday traditions but don’t be afraid to start new ones. Talk to the kids to get their thoughts on keeping some old and trying some new. Traditions can be a source of comfort but some may seem too unbearable to go through. A new tradition may help keep your child interested and engaged during this time of the year.
- Find a way to memorialize your child’s loved one. It may be helpful to incorporate the deceased into a special ritual or activity. Even something as simple as putting together a collage or scrapbook of past holidays with the deceased or decorating ornaments in their loved ones name can make the loss easier to bear.
Keeping these tips in mind during the holiday season and even throughout the year can help kids stay focused on the healthy road to healing. Reinforcing the reasons we do have for celebrating can always help put a positive spin on most any occasion. Peace.
If you’ve recently suffered the loss of a loved one it may be tempting to drown your sorrows in a bottle of alcohol. Hanging out with your friends Jim, Jack and Jose may initially seem like a good way to escape your sadness but it’s one of the worst things you can do for yourself. Having a toast in the name of your loved one might sound like a nice idea but it could spiral into unhealthy coping very quickly. Here’s why using alcohol while going through grief is a bad idea:
- Alcohol is a depressant. Depression is a normal part of the grieving process. By adding a depressant to an already depressing situation, you will eventually only feel more depressed.
- Alcohol can initially seem to help you escape your pain but drinking might suppress your feelings, ultimately prolonging your journey through grief.
- Alcohol may numb your pain in the short term but the intensity of the grief process will probably increase as time goes on. And because alcohol is addicting and tolerance develops, you may end up drinking more and more of it to try and escape.
- By drinking in an effort to avoid the pain of loss, you may end up developing something very difficult to overcome in other ways- an addiction to alcohol.
- Alcohol weakens the body’s immune system. The amount of stress associated with the death of a loved one can also lower our ability to stay physically healthy and well. We do ourselves no favors by adding alcohol to our grief process.
It’s hard to know the “right” way to maneuver through the jungle of grief emotions. Keep in mind there really is no one right way to do it. Focus on what’s healthy and helpful. Steer clear from alcohol, drugs and other unhealthy and harmful ways of coping with your pain. Seek the guidance of a grief counselor if you need help determining the best way for you to get through this difficult time.
Do you know someone who has lost a loved one? Has a friend of yours suffered the death of an important person? Do you feel unsure of what to say or what to do to make it better for them during this season of holiday cheer? Here are some tips on how to support your friend through this hard time of the year:
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your friend’s loss in front of them. By mentioning their loved one’s name, you let your friend know that you are thinking of that person too and that you recognize the difficult time they’re having.
- Don’t assume that your grieving friend wants to be left alone or removed from party invitation lists just because they’ve had a loss. Give them the option of choosing how much or how little they would like to participate in the holidays. Ask them what you can do to make the holidays easier for them.
- Offer to help your friend with decorating, holiday baking, shopping or gift wrapping. Grief is an energy zapper and getting holiday tasks complete may seem insurmountable when living with loss.
- If you’re having a party and are inviting someone who is particularly sad this season, consider having a quiet, private area where that person can step away from the crowd to collect their thoughts and feelings.
- Try to encourage your friend to take care of themselves. Discourage alcohol and drug use. “Having a toast in memory of the deceased” could quickly spiral into poor coping and unhealthy habits.
- Understand that there are no magic words to “fix” someone’s grief. When your friend gets upset in front of you, it’s okay if you don’t know what to say to them. Sometimes just sitting beside someone or offering a hug is what’s best.
Sometimes the holidays can be particularly difficult for anyone who has had a loss, regardless of how long ago their loved one died. Certain songs, foods and traditions can trigger memories that could send anyone into a brief moment of grief emotion. Sitting through those moments, acknowledging the thoughts and the feelings endured and then refocusing on the current reasons for celebration may help keep a positive atmosphere through the season.
When the Holidays aren’t Happy – grief through the holidays
When you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be anything but merry and bright. While others around you are celebrating and full of good cheer, you may find yourself feeling just the opposite. The times of the season seem to almost assault you as you hear Christmas songs in every store and every commercial on television is about buying gifts and baking. The last thing you feel like doing is participating in holiday events. Here are some ways to approach the holidays and smoothly skate through to the New Year:
1. Remember that every special occasion, be it a holiday, a birthday, an anniversary, has 24 hours in that day. You will get through that 24-hour period just as you are this 24 hour period. One minute at a time, no faster, no slower.
2. Keep in mind that the dreadful anticipation of an upcoming family gathering or holiday party can sometimes be worse than the actual event itself. It’s all the time and energy you spend worrying about the future that could cause you more suffering and pain.
3. Consider changing tradition or altering plans. Sometimes insisting that the same holiday routines remain in place as if nothing has changed can put us under more pressure than necessary. Something has changed. Someone has died and will not be there. Changing the tradition, maybe only for one year, could be what’s most needed.
4. Allow yourself time to step away and have moments of solitude. Taking an inventory on your thoughts and feelings can help prevent you from becoming too overwhelmed during one particular moment or at a time you’re trying to be jolly with others.
5. Give yourself permission to say no. If you have to decline an invitation, it’s okay. If you have to leave a dinner party early, that is also okay.
The bottom line is, you will survive the first holiday, birthday, vacation, celebration and anniversary without your loved one. Remind yourself that your process is a normal reaction that all humans experience. You will feel better again soon.
Coming soon, a website to support you and your family while processing the loss of a loved one. Check back soon for articles and information to help you through this difficult time.