Christmas just passed. New Years is a few days away. This is the tween time of year with 2022 coming to a close and 2023 on the horizon. I find myself reflecting on the past and wondering about the future.
For those who are grieving, the coming of a new year can be especially difficult since it is the end of the life cycle for the deceased and the beginning of a new one for those who remain. The hope of a fresh start and renewal with a new year is often overshadowed by fear, doubt, uncertainty, sadness, sleep difficulties, health challenges, foggy thinking, and questioning of faith.
Grief is universal. It happens to all living organisms – human and animal. Responses to it are as individual as the number of people who live, eat and breathe on earth. Grief can sometimes be quite illogical. You may find yourself saying and doing things that you never dreamt about.
Through my research on grief, as well as my own experience, I developed some coping strategies that helped me through many family deaths, including more recently the suicide of my son.
Understand You are not Alone
Others have walked this journey before you and survived. Look to them as an example. What tools have they used to get through their difficult season? Be intentional and decide to heal and move forward. Loss and death are natural, and you are meant to survive, live, and move forward.
Accept Your Loss.
Accepting your loss will help you to move forward. It is a process that offers hope and inspiration. It does not mean forgetting.
Give Yourself Permission to Grieve
It is important to understand that grieving is normal and that it is important to feel the pain. If you don’t feel the pain, you can’t heal.
Give Yourself Permission to Heal
Accept that your grieving experience is valid and no longer deny that it is okay to move forward, experience life in a productive and joyful way.
Overcome Your Fear
The fear of the pain that you may experience to heal may paralyze you and keep you from moving forward. Understand that fear is natural but don’t allow it to keep you stuck.
Focus on Recovery
Recovery is healing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Your pain and suffering caused by the death of your child impact all areas of your health. In grief, it is all too easy to turn to unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, overeating, and binge-watching TV, but these behaviors do not serve you. Now is the time to focus on the healthy choices you can make in self-care including getting restorative sleep, drinking plenty of water, getting outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.
As counter intuitive as it feels, exercise. Walking and getting blood flowing produces endorphins that help your mood, ability to think and physically feel better.
Eat healthy foods. Minimize processed foods, dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol. Replace it with water, fruits, and veggies.
Concentrate on sleep. Sleep is the time your mind relaxes, and your body restores. Remove electronics, TV, phone, laptop, from your bedroom. Instead, read – a non-electronic book, meditate, exercise, pray or complete affirmations.
Ask yourself questions to help think about how you are processing your grief.
- Am I open to healing?
- What does it look like to move forward?
- Is the way I think about my loss keeping me from healing?
Unplug from social media and the news. After scrolling through social media, do you feel more stressed than normal? Does your anxiety level rise? Do you feel lonely despite being “connected” to others through social media? That’s because social media is actually a form of isolation.
Consider your thought patterns and beliefs. They are the stories you tell yourself about the world around you. This becomes your mindset. Changing your mindset is one of the most beneficial things you can do to help deal with your emotions, grief and healing. It is also one of the hardest. Affirmations can shift the internal wiring of your thinking. Here are a few of my favorite affirmations:
I have changed as a result of my grief — With the death of a loved one comes significant change. Your role at home and work will change as does your identity. Some people may tell you that things will resume as they were. The reality is that you will need to live with a new normal. Things will no longer be the same. You will become a different person. Hold on to the thought that, regardless of loss, you are not the same person today as you were yesterday.
I am alive in my grief — Pain reminds you that you are a living, breathing human who experiences pain and sadness. Suffering from loss is part of your humanity.
I choose love. I choose to heal — In your grief, you decide how you feel. Choosing love will guide you to a place of healing.
Spiritual health is a personal matter involving values, integrity, and compassion and supports the purpose and mission of your life. Spiritual wellness provides you with systems of faith, beliefs, values, ethics, principles, and morals. A healthy spiritual practice may include volunteerism, social contributions, belonging to a group, fellowship, optimism, forgiveness, and expressions of compassion and gratefulness.
Develop a sense of gratitude. Let go of the past pain and focus on the positive that surround you. Be sure to forgive and be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Pray and that can be to whatever or whomever you call y our higher power. A higher power is something that gives you peace over situations that are out of your control.
Be open to healing. Be open to options. My faith deepened from my losses. I have a relationship with Jesus. I learned to look for signs from my loved ones from a feather on the ground, a deer crossing my path to a shooting star. These signs give me peace knowing that my loved ones are looking out after me from the heavens above.
Your recovery will come full circle when you incorporate acceptance, understanding your fear and physical, mental, emotional, and mental health. Use these tools anytime, not just when grief arises. They will help you feel like you can handle any situation. Because you can.