Entering a New Year following the death of a loved one can be as difficult as the first Christmas, birthday, and other anniversaries. Some people may perceive that the ending of the year in which the death occurs may bring relief, however, in many cases it is the opposite. A New Year marks the passing of time, a new chapter that doesn’t involve the person that has died, making it an occasion that can spur an increase in the feelings of grief. Being aware of this and having some strategies of how to deal with the feelings can help you to cope with the first New Year following the death of a loved one.
Why Is New Year and Bereavement Difficult?
When a loved one dies there are many feelings and memories associated not only with the life spent with the person, but also the time around their death. The end of the year in which the death occurred marks an occasion for many people. It really is the end of the chapter; a New Year is a new beginning, and a chapter begins in which the deceased will not feature. A year in which the person was alive, is a tangible link, that is broken when midnight strikes and those that are not grieving welcome in a New Year.
No matter at what point during the year the death occurred, the first New Year is likely to be difficult. Obviously, where the death was more recent other family and friends may expect grief to be ongoing, however, if the death was earlier in the year other people may fail to recognise the impact on those that are grieving. It is important to recognise that an increase in grief may strike around this time and prepare accordingly. Some strategies may include:
- Talking to family and friends
- Honouring your loved one
- Plan for the time
- Bereavement counselling
Talking About Your Feelings
One of the most important things you can do when grieving, both at New Year, and throughout the grief process is to talk about how you feel. Finding a trusted family member or friend that will listen and provide support is essential. Talking through your feelings can help you to process the end of the year that your loved one lived and provide insight into moving forward and forging a new life without them. Another person’s input can help to provide perspective and can help you to make plans for New Year such as visiting new places, starting a new hobby, or re-training for a more fulfilling career.
Honouring The Deceased
You may like to take the opportunity of a New Year to honour the life of the person that has died. You could choose to visit their grave with a wreath or other ornament, and spend some time in quiet reflection of the year passed and the final days, weeks, or months spent with them. You could pay tribute with a memorial service inviting other mourners, or some churches hold communal memorial services for those that have recently died that you may prefer to attend. Other ideas include:
- Plant a tree in your loved one’s memory
- Create a flower garden
- Use their ashes for a piece of memorial jewellery
- Donate money or time to a charity that was close to their heart
Plan for the Occasion
One of the most important things that you can do is to plan for both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as well as January as a whole. What do you normally do over these two days? Would you like to maintain your usual routine or do something different? Do you want to celebrate? Be with people or alone? If you are invited to join with the celebrations of family or friends, you shouldn’t feel obliged to participate unless you want. If you do want to celebrate or make plans so that you are not alone, that is fine too, there is no need to feel guilty about having a nice time – it is important to remember that your loved one would have wanted you to enjoy your life.
January is a great time to introduce new routines. It is a good opportunity for a fresh start, and to forge a new life for yourself. Using the time around the New Year to make plans to enhance your own life can set you up for the rest of the year. Making a plan and carrying it out brings with it a sense of achievement that can help you to process your grief and feel fulfilled with your new life.
If you are finding grief at any time too difficult to deal with there are specialist grief counselling services that will be able to provide support. Your GP will be able to refer you to a local bereavement counselling service, alternatively there are charities that can help, or Celebrant Steve works alongside several services and can provide contact details; you can send him a message for information and support.
Bereavement counselling can help whether grief is new or ongoing, getting support can help you to focus on your own future. Even if the death occurred multiple years ago, a New Year is a good opportunity to start counselling and learn coping strategies to help you to move forward.