A Hopeful New Year

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Unlike any other time of the year, the end of December pressures us to take stock. Looking back is painful. Looking ahead is scary. Whether your loss was last month or ten months ago, it feels fresh now.  But remember, you have an incredible resource, YOU.

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Surviving the loss of your partner is one of the most difficult challenges you will face. Whatever the circumstances, you’ve gone through an emotional upheaval. And though you may not know it, you’re moving on. Perhaps you don’t want to hear that phrase ‘moving on’? It may sound trite, like a section heading in a bereavement brochure. But the truth is you are moving on.

When it comes to loss, you’ll discover a few universal truths. Perhaps the most relevant today, as we contemplate the year ahead, is this well-worn phrase:  time heals. Yes, it’s cliché. It’s also true. From one widow to another, I can tell you that each month felt different, that a week made a difference…though sometimes I didn’t realize that week was better until a month later. Slowly but steadily, my grief changed. It wasn’t as suffocating. It stopped greeting me first thing in the morning, and eventually wasn’t the last thing on my mind before I succumbed to sleep. While there are no rules or timelines for grieving – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – as the days and weeks and months pass, healing takes place.

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I wish all my widowed friends a hopeful new year. Let your memories bring you comfort. Find the strength to pursue new dreams. Make it a point to find joy in every day. Don’t be shy to cry, don’t feel guilty when laughing, be good to yourself, you deserve it.

 

2017

Good Grief, It’s the Holidays

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The last thing you want to do is celebrate, but it’s everywhere. Office parties. Family gatherings. Friendly get-togethers. Is the scent of balsam making you teary? Does the sound of sleigh bells have you pining for seasons past? We can’t stop Christmas from coming, but we can cope. Here are a few tips to tackle the holiday season.

Take Charge & Step Down – If you’ve been hosting Christmas Eve or Hanukkah these past few years and have no desire to do so this year, reach out to family members – they may be shy to ask if you’re up to the task, but happy to help.

Shake It Up & Host – For those who haven’t been hosting, this year might be the time to step up. Sound crazy? Not really. For some, being busy is half the battle; preparing and cooking is a much-needed distraction. Plus, you’re in control when the gathering is on your own turf, making the get-together during this difficult time more palatable.

The White Lie – Perhaps your mind is set on no party. While others may be dreaming of a big white Christmas there’s no reason you can’t tell a little white lie. I did. It was the first Easter after Robert had passed and I felt like being alone. I told friends I’d be with family; and told my family I’d be with friends. Easy peasy. I had a quiet day alone, went to the gym, cooked my favorite foods and binged on TV in comfy clothes. The day passed painlessly and without a hint of pity. Avoid the awkwardness of being on the receiving end of an invitation you know you’re going to decline by having your alibi ready. If you stammer an ‘Oh, I don’t know…’ the good-natured inviter may pressure you into a ‘Yes.’

Find Comfort in Common – Reach out to other widows/ers, perhaps you kept in touch with members of your bereavement group. Meeting up with others in the same situation can be an oasis in the midst of holiday hell. There’s no pressure to be jolly and a mutual understanding about the challenges of the season can be therapeutic.

Pamper Yourself – If ever the rejuvenating and calming effects of a spa day were needed, it’s now. Go!

Let Yourself Spree – Indulge. A bit of financially responsible self-gifting might help ease the holidays. A pair of great boots. Maybe a makeover. Upgrade your cable.

Refresh – Don’t be afraid to start new traditions. Now more than ever, you may welcome that sense of newness. Initiate a Day-After-Christmas-Dinner at a favorite restaurant. Perhaps it’s time for a scaled down tree? Or replace the tree with poinsettia plants and some funky new house decorations.

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Holiday Health – If you see a therapist, schedule an extra session or two during the holidays to help alleviate any added pressures of the season.

Home Alone? – You don’t have to stay home. Go to the movies. Plan a museum visit. Volunteer.

The Great Outdoors is Calling – There’s something about being cooped up inside that wreaks havoc on our mood. Get out. Take a walk. Go for a run. Bike. Let Mother Nature have her way with you.

Get Cozy – When you are inside, make sure your home is comfortable, uncluttered, clean and filled with good food, including healthy as well as not-so-healthy treats. ’tis the season.

Be Accepting – Your inner circle wants to help – let them. Accept offers of help with your holiday shopping, babysitting, cooking, dog walking, snow shoveling.

Be A Gracious Guest – If you feel ready, say ‘yes’ when asked out to dinner, for a drink, to a party. Please try.

Be Good – Get involved with a volunteer organization. Offer to help a sick friend. Find time to spend with an elderly neighbor. Do good, feel good.

Remember – When you’re with friends and family, stories inevitably are told and retold. Share memories of your loved one. Say their name. Tell their stories. Feel their presence. It will help all of you through your grief.

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