- Written by Victor M. Parachin Victor M. Parachin
Some common new-year greetings include expressions such as, “Wishing you happiness and health in the new year,” “Wave goodbye to the old; embrace the new with hope and joy,” and “May the days of a new year be filled with happiness for you.”
It’s likely those kinds of wishes may not resonate strongly with those grieving the recent death of a loved one; however, it is possible to tap into the positive energy and symbolism of a new year to help you manage grief and move on with life.
Here are some suggestions.
Draw motivation from the Serenity Prayer. Written by Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr, the Serenity Prayer offers this motivating wisdom for those who are grieving: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
For the bereaved, that prayer is a simple but eloquent reminder that the reality of loss cannot be reversed, so the wise course of action is in acceptance and adjustment.
Consider these bereavement New Year’s resolutions. Culturally, a new year is an ideal time to reframe the mind and refocus the spirit.
So, consider making these types of affirming resolutions to help you resolve grief: I will not compare my grief to others … I am able to overcome loss and live again … I will surround myself with wise, supportive friends … I have the ability to navigate my life through this challenging time … This is hard, but I am able to see it through … I will nurture my body, mind, and spirit as I work through grief.
Remind yourself mistakes are OK. Since there’s really no manual for dealing with grief, the process is one of trial and error. When you make a mistake, rather than berate yourself, give yourself credit for trying.
Writer Neil Gaiman says: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
Practice living in the present moment. It’s all too easy to get dragged back into the past and wish things were different or to be pulled into the future, worrying about your life. Practice living in the present moment because it’s an effective way to remain positive.
Any time you find yourself drifting into the past or the future, bring yourself back to the immediate moment by reflecting on good things happening right now and by identifying the progress you are making.
Recall this wisdom from Ekhart Tolle: “Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment … Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life — and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.”
Limit social media. Education writer Alyssa Abel makes this observation: “When you check your social media feeds, does your heart race in anticipation for the next terrible breaking news story?
“Though this habit didn’t exclusively start in 2020, it morphed into doom scrolling during the pandemic as everyone got in the habit of checking for daily updates and alerts on how dire circumstances were becoming — especially with the pandemic happening during an election year.
“It’s impossible to feel positive if you become lost in negative social media posts, and it’s impossible to avoid them if you’re on there. Limit how often you open your go-to news and social apps so you can devote that time to better habits instead.”
Drop a bad habit. That advice is offered by Kristin Meekhof, author of A Widow’s Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First 5 Years.
“Pick one bad behavior that you find yourself doing and eliminate it. This can be very small,” she writes, and cites the example of a widow who ate fast food every time she dropped her daughter off at gymnastics classes. Her daughter was doing gymnastics twice weekly, so that meant this widow was eating fast food twice a week.
“This meal choice was devastating her blood sugar levels, which was impacting her mood, and, in turn, she found herself being short with her daughter.”
She quit eating fast food during her daughter’s gymnastics sessions and discovered that in making this one change, there was improvement in other areas of her life.
“Ending one behavior will allow space for something new. It will also show you that you do have control over something,” Meekhof adds.
Victor M. Parachin, M.Div., is a grief counselor, bereavement educator, and author of several books, including Healing Grief.