Typically, the new year brings with it hope, possibilities and resolutions. For those who have lost a loved one or are coping with a loved one’s terminal illness, the new year can be a mixed bags of emotions.
We know that grieving is an ongoing process that never ends but waxes and wanes over our life span. From Dr. Barbara Okun’s and Dr. Joseph Nowinski’s research, personal and professional experience, there are a few things you can do to help with the grieving:
- Talk to family members, friends, support groups (virtual or real) about your feelings and focus on positive shared memories
- Talk to your loved one – aloud, internally or writing
- Take care of yourself by eating healthfully, sleeping sufficiently and walking or some other physical activity
- Take some time for self soothing – reading, listening to music, meeting a friend, whatever works for you
- Talk to your medical team to ensure that you have all of your questions or concerns addressed
- Feel free to delegate and ask others to help you
- Balance your needs with others’ needs
- Balance aloneness with being with others
- Consider what you’ve learned about yourself and others over the past year and what you want to do differently in the new year
- The goal is to balance hope with reality, to be prepared for the worst while making best use of each day. Focus on the present and allow the future to unfold trying to be aware of whatever options emerge.
It is normal, especially for people who live in cold climates, to feel sad and depressed during the winter months and grief only exacerbates these feelings.
So try to get as much light as possible and know that as the seasons will change so will your feelings and moods. Your grieving will never disappear but allowing for new beginnings will provide balance.
A clergyman said his wife refused to acknowledge her dying up to the time she died on Christmas day. He reported that he felt a loss that they never were able to reminisce together and review the wonderful events of their life together. He blamed himself for being able to talk to members of his congregation during their dying days but not being able to do so with his own wife. The message from this story is that we need to act today so we do not have undue regrets tomorrow.
No one knows what this new year will bring. We live in troubled, uncertain times where everything we have held dear is being challenged. We cannot change the world but we can do our very best to take responsibility for our lives and to facilitate our dear ones taking responsibility for theirs. It is sort of a choice between embracing the uncertainty of the future – approaching and living – versus hiding in the past and avoiding the responsibility of living.
Living, loving and dying are intertwined. Giving of ourselves and accepting love and help from others enable us to make the most of the time we and our loved ones have between birth and death.
By: Dr. Barbara Okun and Dr. Joseph Nowinski, www.newgrief.com. Twitter: @newgrief. Drs. Okun and Nowinksi will be contributing to genConnect on an ongoing basis. Sign up as a genConnect member to receive email updates of their next article. More from the doctors: