By Deana Thatcher, LISW-S
The New Year is the time we associate with new beginnings. We set goals and make resolutions in hopes of making this year better than the last. We may resolve not to bring old hurts and past troubles with us. The New Year is an opportunity to reset, refocus and rebuild. It’s an opportunity to take control. It’s empowering.
For those grieving, however, the attempt to leave grief behind can be another frustration in the already complex emotional landscape of loss. We think “It’s been X weeks or X months, I should be over this”. We think being who we were before the loss is the ultimate goal. We believe with enough “strength” or effort, we can somehow make our grief move faster or be different.
Unfortunately grief doesn’t work this way.
Learning to manage grief almost always takes longer than we think and certainly takes longer than society expects. The truth is there is nothing unusual or “wrong” about grieving deeply weeks, months and sometimes years after a loss. In fact, grief often impacts us in new and more challenging ways after we leave the chaos of the first months and settle into our life after the loss.
Grief changes us. Rarely do we come through a significant loss the same. Our bodies and minds simply need different things after a loss. We often need more rest, more quiet and sometimes more solitude to just recover from the demands of daily life. Grieving can shift our priorities around. The job we had before the loss may no longer fulfill us. The social network we enjoyed may no longer be a good fit. Our faith may have a different focus and meaning in our lives. We may never be exactly who we were before the loss again.
“Strength” isn’t in controlling and not feeling the emotion around the loss. True strength comes from learning to cope through it. Strength is found in honoring the changes grief has manifested in our lives and rebuilding ourselves to find happiness and hope again.
All this doesn’t mean we can’t empower ourselves in our grief in the New Year. We can absolutely take this opportunity to reset how we think and feel about our grief. If you want to set an intention around your grieving, give yourself the grace to honor what you have been through and how far you have come. Explore your grief in a different way; try journaling or expressive arts, join a support group, find a new book or podcast about grief. Consider the things that no longer fit or serve you in this “new normal” and resolve to introduce something new or let something old go.
We may not be able to change our grief, make it move faster or go away, but we can choose to interact with it and be active in our own healing. May this New Year bring you hope and peace as you continue along your grief journey.