Typical New Year’s resolutions include exercise, weight loss, a career change, learning a new sport, world travel, etc. For the newly bereaved this New Year will be anything but “typical”. Those in grief must lower expectations and adjust their resolutions as some days just getting out of bed is a heroic effort. This is the year to take on resolutions that don’t require extreme effort and energy.
Below are 6 resolutions for the bereaved to consider for the New Year. Whatever you decide to do, or not do, please be gentle and patient with yourself. Know that any grief work will move you forward so that you may begin to heal in mind, body and spirit.
1. I resolve to find something or someone or some event to be grateful for.
For those who have lost a loved one it doesn’t seem like there is a lot to be thankful for. This resolution might sound more challenging then running a marathon. However, if every day you can search for and appreciate something even as small as a flower or a cup of coffee or a sunrise, your sense of gratitude will help you focus on something or someone you have instead of what is missing. If you can develop an appreciative attitude in spite of your loss, you will begin to move forward to heal in mind, body and spirit.
2. I resolve to practice self-care.
I am not advocating extreme diets or intense exercise but I am suggesting that for this year you take care of YOU. Some bereaved don’t even know what that means or how to go about taking care of self. Here are three simple steps: 1. Eat somewhat healthy. 2. Walk or bike outside. 3. Try to get lots of rest. Grief is exhausting and depleting so the healthier you eat and the more you rest, the better you will be equipped to do your grief work. Avoid extremes if possible such as, over or under indulging in food or drink, over or under exercising and too much or too little sleep. As you learn to take care of yourself you will have the energy and initiative to move forward in your grief and begin to heal in mind, body and spirit.
3. I resolve to read a book.
Focusing and concentrating are difficult tasks during the grieving process and therefore the last thing you might consider spending your energy on is reading a book. I am not suggesting a 500 page thriller, I am encouraging you to read a short, abridged book on grief. As you become educated about grief and how it works, you will begin to understand what you are experiencing and know that you are not going crazy. With knowledge of how grief operates you will begin to move forward to heal in mind, body and spirit.
4. I resolve to say “yes”.
Often times after the death of a loved one, the bereaved shut down and become almost reclusive. It takes energy to be social and it is easier to decline any and all invitations. Initially this is acceptable but as time goes on it is important for the bereaved to be engaged with others. Grief is lonely and isolating. Part of the grieving process involves accepting the companionship of others. I am not suggesting you need to be a social butterfly and attend every family and community event. Being around others, even in small doses, is healthy for those in grief. For example, you can yes to a dinner invitation with a few friends but maybe you drive your own car so you can leave when you have had enough socialization. Each time you venture out will get easier and it will move you forward to heal in mind, body and spirit.
5. I resolve to say “no”.
On the other hand, many bereaved feel obligated to continue with their social calendar. These bereaved have trouble declining invitations they have no interest in attending. In the beginning of your grief work, it is okay to say no to bridge club, girls’ night out, family gatherings, etc. Initially, the amount of energy you have is so minimal that you need to reserve it for basic daily tasks that before the death took little or no thought or energy and now are very consuming and overwhelming, such as showering, paying bills, grocery shopping, laundry etc. It is your grief journey and you are the driver, know that it is okay to say no to unsolicited but “well-intended” advice of friends and relatives that tell you “you need to do this” and “you need to do that”. When you take control of your grief journey by learning to say “no”, you will move forward to heal in mind, body and spirit.
6. I resolve to tell my deceased loved one’s story.
This might seem like a very easy and attainable resolution as most bereaved get great comfort in talking about their deceased loved ones. The problem is not in the telling but rather in the finding of an interested and non-judgmental listener! After a few weeks family and friends will get a glazed look or even change the subject when you start talking about your deceased loved one. Don’t give up. You need to keep searching for someone who will listen. When people ask how they can help, suggest they simply listen. Members of a grief support group “get it” and are willing to listen to your story. Only once you are able to tell your loved one’s story over and over again will you begin to move forward to heal in mind, body and spirit.
Here’s to good grief work together in 2015!