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New Year is a Time to Reflect and Adapt

2016 Resolutions
Thursday, January 21, 2016

It is a New Year. The calendar pages have turned to 2016. It is common among grieving people to question, “How do I move forward into a new year?” Many describe the cascade of emotions and feelings; most don’t include the adjective “happy.” The flood of memories associated with your loss may have been intensely triggered by the holiday season. This is common in newly bereaved persons as well as seasoned grievers. 

When Grief Returns

It is common to feel your loss more acutely from time to time. The roller coaster of emotions often becomes the new normal. What changes is one’s ability to ride the waves with greater confidence using the tools learned in grief work.

If you are struggling with the New Year or have had additional losses since the death of your loved one, you may feel you have experienced a setback. These feelings can challenge one’s self-confidence and feelings of safety just as it did when you experienced the news of your loss. It may feel as though you have regressed. Many people describe their grief as something that controls them.

What you are experiencing is described as re-grieving because of the recurrent triggers experienced surrounding the holidays. This is common and can recur many times throughout a calendar year. 

Coping with Re-Grief

To limit the impact, try to develop skills to manage and anticipate the feelings that may be stimulated. It takes a concerted effort and good grief work to confront the emotional, psychological, and physical stirrings that may have returned. 

We all have the skills inside of us to manage these up and down feelings. Life in general has many up and down moments a day. We learn to ride the roller coaster and change behaviors to diminish stress, e.g., leave the house earlier for work to decrease stress, limit the amount of life activities to make life manageable, etc.

Reflect and Adapt

Reflecting on the past holiday, ask yourself, “Did I try to do too much?” Be honest with yourself about how you felt and what you might have done differently. This is an optimal time to evaluate your plan for the future. You may decide to give up some of the things that were simply too difficult. If the time comes and you feel you have the desire to add these activities back into your life, it is easy enough to do this. Accepting that your grief has changed you and your priorities is a very healthy place to be as well as an opportunity to live life in a new fulfilling way, all while missing the person you lost. Without this take away, life and death are in vain.

Balance is a very important key to managing your emotional roller coaster. You simply cannot be in grief 24/7. It is important to find time for distraction, whether it is work or play. It is equally important to find time to spend with thoughts of your loved one in quiet contemplation, listening to music that stirs your soul, journaling, or in nature and myriad other ways. 

Vacillating between joy and sorrow is a healthy way to live life. When your grief burst comes, fold into it and evaluate what the trigger was. Learning to embrace your grief can actually give you a sense of closeness to your loved one, the longing connects with the love and your person.

You may find that you recover faster now than when you were newly bereaved. Emotions are a part of fully living and loving someone. Enjoy your memories of them. Learning how to handle your emotions by taking charge of your life and activities can renew your confidence in life.

I would love to hear what your challenges are and ways you have learned to adapt. Tell me in the comments below.

Linda Coughlin Brooks is the SUDEP Institute Bereavement Support Facilitator; she contributes; regular articles as part of our bereavement support services. You can contact Linda at sudep@efa.org. Watch for future articles and learn more about our support for bereaved.

Authored by: Linda Coughlin Brooks RN | BSN | CT on 1/2016

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