How to manage the new year without a loved one

The new year brings reminders of new beginnings, but how can we navigate this when we are grieving?  

When we lose someone we love, the passing of time can feel make us feel like we are being forced forward and further away from all that is familiar and from the person we have lost. We may even have a fear that we will forget them, their scent, their touch, as we say goodbye to the year in which our loved one died, and we want to fight with every fibre of our being to press stop.

It is a hugely emotional transition. There are so many reminders of new beginnings at each new year that you can dread the midnight hour. The build-up can be intensely painful because it lasts so long and it isn’t that we feel the loss of our loved one more during this time of year, it just feels worse because there are reminders wherever we look. Everything has changed for us yet the world just carries on as normal as one year makes way for another.

So, how can we manage this transition into the new year without our loved ones?

Understand that it’s OK to feel your pain

Grief hurts. A lot. If we didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt. When we lose someone significant in our lives, we are often left with things we still want to say, need and do with them. Recognise this and sit down with yourself. Imagine you could have one more conversation with them. What would you ask them and what would you like to tell them? Write it down – try writing in the form of a letter.

Take your time and be honest – no one will read this unless you want to share it. Follow your instincts and trust the process but try not to keep your focus on the fact that they are no longer alive as this can cause a blockage. Identifying what it is we are scared of or need can help bring new awareness.

Have a plan and get things in the diary

Sometimes we have to force ourselves to stay in the mainstream of living but the more you do, the more you can. Don’t let others railroad you into things that you really don’t want to do or even to be with people you don’t want to be with. Taking regular walks in nature can be a wonderful way to clear your head. Focus on the rhythm of your feet as they walk the earth. This can be incredibly therapeutic on its own.

By making a commitment to things, you are respecting yourself and the memory of your loved one. If you allow your sadness to prevent you from being able to share all of the joy that they brought to your life, the legacy of that love becomes lost, not only to others but to you too. You have a duty to them and to those you love to continue.

Reach out to family and friends

Tell them how you are feeling and have a go-to person you can talk to when you’re struggling.

Create a remembrance garden  

Plant some bulbs, a flower, or a shrub and create a special area in your garden. Take care of your little plot and watch it grow. You can add to this over time – look for stones and pebbles to adorn it with. This will give you a good focus. I’ve recently learned that there are micro-organisms in the soil that react with our skin and release endorphins into our body. Endorphins reduce stress and improve our sense of wellbeing. Surviving in our grief isn’t just emotional, it’s physical too.

Dedicate something to the person you have lost

Use the new year to dedicate something to your loved one in their memory – whether a piece of work, some charity work, or a poem. Be creative and find whatever works for you. We have to do what is right for us to navigate this journey. Finding new ways of connecting with those we have lost will keep them a part of our life.

To honour and remember those we have lost, we can try to embody the characteristics and traits that we most admired and loved about them. In doing so, we can feel as though they are still with us, guiding us in our daily lives.

If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one and you’d like more support, you can connect with a counsellor or find more information on bereavement at Counselling Directory.

Lianna Champ has over 40 years of experience as a grief and funeral care specialist and is the author of the practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ.

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