New Year’s Resolution - Making Space for GriefDec 20, 2022
By: Ilana Shapiro Yahdav
We can never know when we will be overtaken by a wave of grief. An innocent outing can result in a total grief ambush that can leave us in a puddle of tears. We really can’t plan for these grief waves, however, we can plan for significant emotional dates. Of course, we can’t truly anticipate how we will feel on those days - we may feel a lot, or nothing at all - we can still take a few steps to support ourselves pre-emptively.
This time of year, it’s very popular to do a year-in-review and make new year's resolutions for the following year. When we are grieving, it can be really hard to get anything done. Sometimes getting the bare minimum, non-negotiables done is a stretch and feels comparable to running a marathon without training.
Grief can be so heavy and so hard to lug around that any seemingly small task feels insurmountable. Brushing teeth. Taking a shower. Getting the kids to and from school. It totally makes sense that adding in any resolutions can be challenging and seemingly impossible during that season. We all go through different seasons of life - seasons of grief, seasons of joy, and seasons of growth, to name a few.
When we are in our seasons of grief, it’s important that we honor it and give space for it.
Remember, grief is the normal and natural reaction to a loss of any kind and is the conflicting feelings around the change or end of any familiar pattern of behavior.
It’s important to note that not all grieving experiences are negative. Some can be quite positive and wonderful and yet, due to being a change in a familiar pattern is grieving too. Think about getting that dream job, moving into that new house, marrying your dream spouse - all happy occasions and grieving occasions.
We’d like to offer an alternative approach to year-in-review and resolution-making in hopes that it can bring you more comfort, and not add to your grief. If you’re in a painful season of grief - and even if you’re not at the moment - we encourage you to read on for some tips on how to make space for your grief, honor your grief, and plan for anticipated potentially challenging dates.
Reflect on the Past Year Through the Lens of Grief - Some questions to consider
- What was triggering for you?
- What was hard for you? What was easy for you?
- What are some new milestones that you achieved?
- What do you wish was different, better, or more?
- Where do you feel incomplete (if at all)?
- What do you feel proud of?
Next, think about the upcoming year and write out each of the months and go through the below 3 steps:
(Note: there is no wrong way to do this exercise. The goal is to help you pre-emptively think of times that you may need/want extra support and have a few plans in place. It’s much easier to prepare ahead of time when you’re not in the thick of a grief wave).
1) Include any anniversary, birthday, holiday, or life event that may be difficult for each month.
2) Get curious
- What are your top concerns?
- What would help you feel like your grief had a little more space?
- What is a good way to honor your grief on that day (i.e. death-aversary - how can you honor that person in a way that you feel connected?)
- Who is someone you can call to be a compassionate listener?
- How can you proactively plan? (i.e. Take the day off, schedule time with a dear friend, get a massage.)
3) Validate whatever you feel. Remember ALL of your feelings are valid!!!
I’ll share some high-level personal examples for the upcoming year:
- Giving birth to my second baby
- My 2-year old adapting to no longer being an only child
- Missing my dad all over again and grieving that he will not meet my new baby (and not meet my toddler or any of his other grandbabies)
- How do I take care of two tiny humans when sometimes one feels overwhelming enough?
- Ways to proactively plan:
- Line up lots and lots of help.
- Honor any and all emotions that come up for me. Don’t force myself to hold back tears of sadness and joy. Journal.
- Take 5 minutes a day to myself to check in on my feelings and communicate with my husband.
- Don’t allow myself to feel bad for taking some time to shower, brush my teeth, take a nap or do something ‘fun and non-essential’ for myself.
- Turning 40
- Only 12 years away from the age that my dad was when he died.
- Another year without him (dad died the day after my birthday so both dates are very intertwined for me).
- Ways to proactively plan:
- Plan something fun, not stressful, with people that I feel safe around and enjoy.
- Share with trusted friends that this birthday especially may feel triggering.
- Allow myself to feel whatever I need to feel in the way that I need to feel it.
- Take the day off of work and do something special for myself.
- Dad’s 16th Death-aversary
- Mom will be traveling this year and we won’t spend it together
- Figuring out how to include my two babies in a tradition honoring my dad
- Ways to protectively plan:
- Schedule loved ones to join me for pizza that day (hubs & my kids). (Note: my dad LOVED pizza, so we always eat pizza on his anniversary).
- Keep the activities light and only commit to what is mandatory and feels comforting.
- Maternity leave ending / Husband’s paternity leave ending
- Finding a nanny that we trust.
- Missing being with the baby full-time/relief to not being with the baby full-time.
- Diving back into work.
- Husband not being able to help out as much.
- Ways to proactively plan:
- Ease back into work.
- Find a nanny/caregivers we trust!
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help/hire help.
- Take it one day at a time and do not overcommit both professionally and personally.
I’ll admit, both Kim and I sometimes struggle to practice what we preach and work to hold each other accountable to keep doing our own work. It’s a non-linear journey for all of us.
The more inner work we do, the deeper we can go, and the more we can heal whatever is left hiding in the deep crevices of our hearts.
Doing the above exercise was quite cathartic for me and helped me to start to take proactive action for times that I know can be triggering for me. I encourage you to do the same.
Remember, grief looks different on all of us. Our journeys all look different. And all of them, I repeat, all of our journeys are 100% valid. Just because someone else is in pain as well, does not take away from our pain or vice versa. There is plenty of pain to go around for all of us. Just as there is plenty of joy and healing for all of us.
Please honor your grief and feelings.
Please honor others’ grief and feelings.
ALL ARE VALID.
What if you let it be okay to not set any resolution other than making space for your grief, and allowing it to have space?
Develop your personalized grief support action plan with our "Grief & Gratitude" workbook.
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