What will the next year bring? Most of you read What’s Your Grief because someone you love very deeply has died, so the answer to this question depends on where you are in coping with your grief. At the strike of midnight on January 1st you may be heavily under grief’s influence, so what’s the point of talking about resolutions and positive change? How silly and trite it seems to suggest you eat healthy and exercise, meditate and do yoga. These are all good suggestions, and if you can do them – great! – but for those who currently need a resolution to simply get out of bed, here’s a more useful list of recommended goals for the new year.
- Get enough sleep
- Breathe deeply and take things slow
- Eat regular meals
- Let others help you
- Find one thing to smile about in a day
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions
- Don’t give up
- Keep a window of hope open
But maybe your heading into the new year a bit further along in your grief. You’ve climbed out of the dark room and into the light and, although you’re still worse for the wear, you’re ready to start feeling better. You’re ready to take back control; to take small steps in dealing with guilt, anger, and regret; to make better choices for yourself; and most importantly to continue your bond with your loved one in a way that is reflective of the relationship you had when they were alive.
This will be an uphill climb and it will take resiliency, determination, introspection, and compassion. It seems to me that instead of talking about a shallow declaration made at the stroke of midnight, perhaps we should discuss the things you truly need to help guide you to a place of wellbeing in the new year. This may sound like an odd thing for the authors of 64 New Years Resolutions for Grievers to say; we’re aware of our hypocrisy.
No half hearted obligatory resolution is going to cover all the ground that lies in front of someone trying to climb out of the dark places of grief; resolutions are small promises made to yourself to do things like give up Diet Coke and cut the ‘S-word’ out of your vocabulary. If in the new year you’re facing changes and challenges far bigger than those which can be addressed by a New Years resolution, it’s better you focus your efforts on the things that will help you tackle significant change in the new year.
1. Improve self awareness.
Start with this reality; sometimes even when you think you’re self-aware, you’re not. Have you ever stepped on the scale at your annual doctors appointment and found you were 15 pounds heavier than you thought? Have you ever taken out the recycling and felt shocked by how many empty wine bottles you accumulated that week? Have you ever thought you were getting by at work, school or socially only to receive feedback to the contrary? Stop going through life saying “I’m fine” when you’re not and strive to tell yourself the truth about how you’re doing.
2. Believe you are worthy of that which you consider “good”.
Believe it or not, people don’t always feel they are worthy of things like good health, positive relationships, sobriety, and contentment. Things like grief, depression, and isolation are especially good liars and can make you believe that the extra 10 pounds, the drunken stupor, and the verbally abusive relationship are what you deserve. They aren’t.
3. Believe circumstances are in your power to change (unless they aren’t).
Everyone struggles with self-doubt, but losing a loved one may shake your confidence in yourself, others, and the world. After a loss you may find you’re scared, worried and anxious more often; you may withdraw from others and spend more time alone; and you may struggle to find a worldview you’re comfortable with. It may take a little while for you to get reacquainted with yourself and so you may be a bit slow getting back on your feet; but you have to have faith in yourself and believe you are capable of doing what you can to find a sense of peace and comfort.
4. Have realistic expectations and be patient with yourself.
The death of someone significant brings many secondary losses and necessary adjustments. It may take you a long time to feel normal again and by ‘normal’ I mean ‘different but okay’. Grief often means having three good days and one bad, so don’t get frustrated when a grief wave knocks you down.
5. Maintain an environment supportive of your wellbeing.
Surround yourself with the people who want you to be well. Take a break from people in your life who drag you down, enable you, encourage you to choose negative coping, or make you feel bad about your grief. Someday when you’re stronger you can reconnect with them if you choose.
Recognize if you are standing in your own way. It will be difficult for you to feel better until you believe all the above – that you need to make changes, that you deserve to feel better, that you are capable of achieving wellbeing, and that even though it takes time, you are doing okay.
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