By Teske Vance
The holiday season can be a challenging time for families who have experienced the death of a loved one. In last month’s issue, we explored some Helpful Hints for Dealing with Holiday Grief, including the following suggestions:
- Make a Plan. Decide which traditions will stay, or create new ones. Either way, do something!
- Don’t Avoid the Elephant in the Room. Speaking the name of your loved one is a way to honor their life and acknowledge their death.
- Include the Children. Children have great ideas for how to celebrate and memorialize; ask for their input!
- Consider Ways to Honor. Light a candle, make a donation in their memory, cook their favorite dish, or volunteer. Do something in your loved one’s memory.
The New Year is one holiday that grieving individuals tend to overlook, but it can hit like a ton of bricks. I vividly recall the first New Year that I “celebrated” after the death of my daughter. So much planning had gone into the traditional holidays that my family celebrates. I had made it through these “firsts” and by late December, I thought I was in the clear. It turns out, the New Year was more difficult for me than any other holiday. Our grief is unique and our experiences will vary, but I’ve learned since that time that I wasn’t alone in this.
What made the New Year so difficult, you wonder?
New Year’s is a time of looking forward and resolution. People are enamored by the idea of change, progress, goal-setting, and promise. It’s a time for aspirations of what is to come. The thought of looking forward to anything seemed unbearable to me as I continued in my grief. I felt as though the rest of the world was moving on, so hopeful and optimistic. Everyone was moving forward, yet I felt stuck. I was ringing in the New Year with the same old grief.
Maybe this holiday season, you’re in a place of feeling stuck in the same old grief. Many suggest that the bereaved learn to adjust to a new normal. I wish I could tell you it was simple, but the truth is that it may be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. A new normal is inevitable. As much as you and I wish we could rewind and have our loved ones back, we simply cannot. We do, however, get to decide how that new normal looks.
Shaping Your New Normal
Whether you realize it or not, you have already begun. From the moment that you received the news of your loved one’s passing, a time of adjustment has ensued. It has been automatic, and at times you may have felt as though you’re on autopilot. Even so, it’s never too late to reign in the controls and chart your path with purpose. The following suggestions may help you to consider how to embark on the New Year with purpose as you continue on your grief journey.
Spend Time in Reflection. Take the time that you need to process what life looks like in the aftermath of your loss. Grieve freely and take inventory of the many secondary losses that you may be experiencing due to your loved one’s death. Secondary losses are those changes that take place as a result of the death, such as a former stay-at-home mom and housewife having to return to work, a financial change that requires a family to sell their home, a change in schools for children, etc. Grief is a result of any loss or change and these secondary losses can certainly add to the existing grief caused by death. By reflecting on what once was, you can begin to process where to go next and how you want to purposefully live out your future.
Give Back in Memory of Your Loved One. Consider those things that your loved one held dear and think of ways that you can give back in their memory. Was your late spouse an animal lover? Volunteer at the local animal shelter. Did your child love to read books? Purchase some of his/her favorites and donate to a local library or school. The opportunities are endless here, but perhaps the New Year is an opportunity to try a new hobby that they enjoyed or to carry something on in their name.
Seek Out and Receive Support. If you haven’t sensed it already, people will expect you to be ready to “move on” with life. There is no moving on or getting over the loss of a loved one. Nevertheless, you can walk through it and gain so much along the way. Seek out the support of friends, family members, and support networks that understand and show compassion for what you are going through. Consider the local support group offerings available in the community and meet others who are going through something similar.
It is our mission at Amanda the Panda to provide innovative grief support services that promote hope and healing to individuals, children, and families. We are here to walk alongside you as you step forward into the New Year. Please consider joining our Winter Wellness Grief Support Group, starting in January. You may call (515)223-4847 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the Author
Teske has a passion for working with those who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, shaped by her personal, educational, and professional background. With a BA in Social Work and Family Services, and an MS and PhD in Human Development and Family Studies, Teske has worked in end-of-life care as a Hospice Social Worker and previously served as Director of Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss. Teske also co-founded and led a non-profit support group for 8 years, Mommies with Hope, designed for women who experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss; a topic on which she has researched extensively and published two books. Teske is excited to be a part of Amanda the Panda and to carry on the longstanding history of bringing hope and healing to grieving families in the community and beyond.