Your gain: Discover my four top tips for guidance on starting a new year after loss, and learn to strike a balance between being hopeful and realistic in the midst of your grief.
By the way, if you want my free LBG Grief in Gratitude Journal Prompt to help you get into that more hopeful mindset I just mentioned, be sure to check out the bottom of this post!
I’m going to say something really blunt right up front—your loss doesn’t end on December 31st. The gut-wrenching, confusing, lost, angry, disheartened, punched-in-the-stomach feelings you may be experiencing don’t miraculously end. In fact, they never really do.
Grief doesn’t dissipate as quickly as we’d hope sometimes. On top of that, we live in a grief-avoidant society where we’re often required—or at least feel as though—we have to get back to work right away. Most get months off after a birth, but only 3-5 days off for bereavement. Like… what?!
We’re expected to return to a sense of normalcy and bounce back as though we simply hit a pothole and not a MASSIVE freaking Mariana Trench that we’re still falling down, even when we have to go back to the office or continue taking care of a family, etc.
We learn 911, we learn CPR, we learn emergency preparedness. We need to know these for things that may or may not happen. But what IS inevitable? Death. You can’t postpone, cancel, or delete it off your calendar. It doesn’t discriminate. So why are we so unprepared?
Well, in blog post today, I’m going to try and help prepare you a little more for this year with some of my best tips to venture into a new year with more clarity.
Breathe and Give Yourself Permission
What does giving yourself permission to grieve mean? It means knowing with every fiber of your being that grief is a normal, natural, and a perfectly acceptable response to a loss. Say that to yourself as many times as you need to. In doing that, take four deep breaths in through your nose, and four deep breaths out through your mouth. Do this practice whenever it feels natural or you need a little boost of light and energy. It will calm you, bring you back down to earth a little bit, and help you regulate your emotions and get in touch with how you’re really feeling and what, specifically, is holding you up.
Understand It Won’t Happen Overnight
You know what I said in the beginning about our grief-avoidant society? Well, guess what? Contrary to what our society or our colleagues think, you’re not required to accept your loss lying down. And it probably won’t be quick, so let’s get that out of your head now.
Something you love has been taken from you, and you’re expected to move forward as though it was a bump in a road. My mission with Losses Become Gains is to help minimize your psychological effects (feeling isolated, lost, despair, etc.) through education and support. If you haven’t already, please go check out the rest of the journal under the “Coping Tools” section for countless other posts on a variety of tips.
Resources For You in This New Year
Here are a few of my favorites from the LBG Journal. They’re a good place to start no matter how new your loss is:
Understanding Your Emotions
Part of understanding how and why this won’t happen overnight is becoming aware and acknowledging your feelings associated with your grief. If you feel as though you didn’t do this enough in the past year, or could use more recognition of these feelings in the new year, really take a pause and think about this.
While I have immense respect for Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her 5 stages of grief, there has been SO much development in the field of grief and understanding how the brain works to be so married to that model. So, politely throw it out the window (but not too far, because there’s some truth there) and know you’re going to be going at your own pace here. That’s perfectly fine.
Put a Plan in Place and Do the Grief Work
How Are You Sparking Joy For Yourself?
Not to give you more homework to do while you’re grieving, but… that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Do an assessment on yourself. How are you really feeling today? What are small things you can do each day to spark a little joy for yourself? What’s just ONE thing you can be grateful for?
Is it going to a bookstore and browsing with a hot cup of coffee in-hand? Going for a walk with a loved one? Taking a leisurely drive by yourself? Getting lost in a fictional book to escape for a little while? Do what serves you! Just make sure it’s a healthy, beneficial action that changes your perspective on life.
A huge factor of becoming more at peace with your grief is finding comfort in your own company. While I’m a little more independent at heart (thank you, mom and dad), I’ve found this increased I don’t know how many times over once I went through my losses. I kind of had to, honestly. During so much of it I was fending for myself. Dealing with emotions by myself. I did go to therapy for a few months virtually through Talkspace, which did help a LOT and I would encourage it. But, really, the grief work has to come from within us. So, ask yourself…
What Did You Learn Today?
I want you to think: what can I learn today? At the end of the day, ask yourself that. “What did I learn today?”. Say it out loud or to yourself, write it down, whatever suits you. But take this loss and use it as an opportunity to evolve and take in this new reality you’ve been placed in. Harness this sadness and doubt you’re feeling and turn it into a seedling you can elicit growth from.
What Are You Doing For You?
Grief and loss can take a lot out of us. Depending what you have been through or are going through now, you might be feeling this more deeply. There will be plenty of people comin’ in hot with their opinions and PLENTY of “what not to say” kind of comments.
“They would want you to be happy.”
“Time heals all wounds, you’ll be fine.”
“Just be grateful.”
“At least they lived a long life.”
“At least you still have [insert whatever this looks like for you here]”
Comments like this (and a plethora of others) are problematic because 1) no one has the authority or power to claim these things. How do you know what my loved one(s) would say or feel? How do you know I’ll be fine?
Genuine support and empathy never begins with “at least”.
But we can’t control what others say, can we? So, do your best to not internalize these. I’ve made this mistake and it has quite literally kept me up at night. It’s not going to serve you or your highest self, so let them have their opinion and trust that they’ll know how you feel someday.
This brings me back to: what are you doing for you? How are you overcoming your adversity and becoming a bigger, better person for it?
Take Baby Steps and Open Yourself Up
One of the beautiful things about coming to terms with your loss is accepting your new reality and opening up and to allow and receive the grief experience and all that entails. But grief hurts, right? Why do we want to knowingly open ourselves up to that?
I know, I know. Consider a few things, though…
Why Baby Steps Are Important
- The journey of grief is what ultimately gets you to transition from a place of despair to one of hope and gratitude. But yes, you have to do some painful work and deep, deep feeling to get there. I hate to say it, but that’s how it goes. There’s little avoiding it. But, as I mentioned in the above sections, you have the power to turn this around into something you can grow from. Use the beginning of a new year to do that! Not ready? Absolutely fine. Start when you’re ready, but I challenge you to challenge yourself a little here because these baby steps are really important.
- We have such limited, precious time here. If your loss is in the form of a person, you know this better than anyone. Even if they lived until an age most would consider “a good life”, it’s fleeting. Ain’t nobody got time to wallow into eternity! But there are going to be couch-ridden, crying sesh days. Let yourself have them. That’s why they say grief comes in waves and it’s not linear, right?
Grief work to accept that your loss is real is important. It just is. You have to dig deep to find the willpower to work through that. But you have choices. Imagine you’re in a deep, dark forest. You can allow yourself to get stuck in that wilderness and suffer there, or you can take action. You can start finding a way out. That’s exactly what grief work is. But remember, I’m here to be your compassionate partner as you journey through it to support you as you come across curves and dead ends—because you definitely will.
What To Consider in a New Year
As you venture into a new year, think about the following:
- Are there things you want to change? You never know how much time is left, and things can still be rearranged. What an amazing excuse to do some self reflection and make some tweaks, right?
- You’ve been through a loss, so you’re in a unique position to show more empathy than others who haven’t. That’s really special gift and a highly desired trait in a family member, a friend, a co-worker or employee, and on a human-to-human level. Tap into that!
- Write out your thoughts. Don’t let them fester in your brain and affect your sanity and sleep.
- Grief bursts can and will come. These unexpected bouts of sadness, despair, and perhaps even anger will knock on your door and let themselves in. Some might have no trigger at all, too, they just show up. The only predictable thing is they’re unpredictable. Fun, right? I know. Just know they’re perfectly normal and embrace them as they come. A new year doesn’t eliminate them, but with more healing, they’ll ease up.
The Dash Matters
I learned this analogy in one of my grief coaching courses and it really stuck out to me.
What matters is the dash between the lines of the birth and death date. What matters is how we spend our “dash”.
I thought that was the most poignant thing, honestly. So humble, that dash. That middle which appears to be so small in between such monumental dates, but my gosh… how important a life lived, isn’t it?
Consider Your Legacy
First, take a moment to pause and think about the legacy you want to leave here. The impression you want to make on people. The service you want to provide—and I don’t mean tangibly for work, necessarily. I mean how do you want to serve those you loved, your community, and your fellow humans?
Feel the Gratitude Deeply
Second, take a moment to reflect on and feel gratitude. Break it down. What are you grateful for? Name just three things. ONE thing, even. Why are you grateful for them? How do they make you feel? What would your life look like without them? What will you do to nurture them this year?
Grief can make us feel like there’s so little to be grateful for, which is a really unfortunate feeling that none of us should ever have to endure. But, it’s a valid thing to feel when you feel like a part of your soul has been ripped out of your body, right?! So, let’s give ourselves grace but also take a step to put our mental health first, embrace this life we get to live after our loss.
PS – I’ve talked up the 5-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change probably 10 times on this blog in different posts, but that’s an example of a resource that will intentionally help you tap into this each day. If journaling isn’t your thing, totally fine! Just make it a point to take a minute and think about this.
Give Yourself Grace
When I was in my first couple years of loss, truthfully, the prospect of a new year wasn’t that exciting. The year my mom died (December 2019), I couldn’t care less about 2020. Pile on COVID-19 and my dad dying in July of that year, I was in NO mood.
I’m not going to feed you the classic “time heals all wounds” bit. But, time is a factor in allowing your brain to catch up—know that. To allow the neurons that connected you to the thing you lost to get accustomed to your new normal.
I actually plan on doing an entire post about how the brain grieves so keep an eye out for that, but I’ll leave you with this…
You are perfectly capable of finding and living a life that’s full of beauty, gratitude, and fulfillment after a loss. I will not sit here typing and say it’s easy. It’s absolutely not. But that’s what I’m here for—it’s quite literally why I created Losses Become Gains, and my promise to you is to help you find your “why” if that’s missing for you right now. In the meantime, if you begin to put the steps I outlined above into practice, things will begin to shift for you day by day.
Get Your Freebie From Me!
If you’re not already on my mailing list, I would truly love to connect with you more on there. But please know, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s spammy emails. So, I promise not to do that to you here. I also promise to serve you useful, inspiring content that will actually help you through your grief journey. That means even MORE awesome content that you won’t get in the blog, because my mailing list is privy to all the exclusives. That’s my thing, and I want to help you through your thing. You’re in good hands here, I promise you that, too.
To start us off on the right foot, when you subscribe you’ll immediately get my free LBG Gratitude in Grief Journal Prompt so you can make sure you’re taking care of your mental health and journey of grief in the healthiest way possible—right now. No waiting. Think of it as a lil’ gift from me to you to tackle this new year as peacefully as possible.