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10 Ways to Stay Positive in the New Year While Grieving

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Grieving is hard enough to live through each day as it comes—but when a whole new year is put in front of us, it can become even more overwhelming. The experience of losing a loved one can leave you feeling empty or lonely, and may make you reluctant to face the new year.

As others push start on resolutions and seemingly continue life as normal, those grieving may find it difficult to enjoy the season’s cheer. Some may be afraid of what the new year might bring, while others may worry whether or not they can handle any more challenges.  

While the start of the new year may mean different things for different people, a positive mindset can get you back on track toward accepting loss and finding peace. If you or someone you know recently lost a loved one, continue reading for strategies to focus on the positive in the coming year.

1. Understand the stages of grief.

In the days, weeks and months following the loss of a loved one, it’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. If you’re experiencing feelings that aren’t necessarily positive, that’s okay. Healing is extremely personal and there is no “right” way to grieve. Acknowledge whatever feelings come your way and pay attention to what your heart tells you.

Remind yourself to look for something positive in each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder than others. Make a resolution for yourself to pay attention to the small things, perhaps reflect on what you’re thankful for each day, and jot down that one word on the calendar before going to bed. 

The stages of grief are often unpredictable, so it’s important to tackle it all in stride.

2. Remember and honor your loved one.

Although your loved one is no longer physically present, his or her legacy continues to live on through you. A great way to remember your loved one is by honoring them.

Here are some creative ways to remember the life lived:

  • Cook your loved one’s favorite meal.
  • Cross an item off of your loved one’s bucket list.
  • Finish a project your loved one was working on.
  • Light a memorial candle.
  • Listen to their favorite song.
  • Make a quilt out of your loved one’s old clothes.
  • Read their favorite book.
  • Set a placeholder where they sat at the dinner table.
  • Sponsor a brick or bench at their favorite park.
  • Take flowers to your loved one’s gravesite or final resting place.
  • Volunteer for your loved one’s favorite charity or give a donation in their name.

Honoring your loved one ensures that your connection remains even after they’ve passed.

3. Make your physical and mental health a priority.

Whether the loss was anticipated or not, grief is physically and mentally exhausting. No matter what stage of life your loved one was in when they passed, it hurts to lose someone.

As you head into the new year, have patience with yourself. When dealing with grief, don’t feel obligated to attend events or open up if you’re not ready. Do your best to calm your mind by replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Soothe your mind and body with everyday activities that bring you peace, including:

  • Exercising.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Lighting a scented candle.
  • Listening to calming music.
  • Meditating.
  • Reading a book.
  • Taking a warm bath or shower.
  • Taking a walk and enjoying nature.
  • Pampering yourself at the spa.

All of these activities can help you practice self-care in the midst of grief.

4. Surround yourself with loved ones.

For many, the new year magnifies loss. While you may want to isolate yourself from others, it’s important to seek comfort from those closest to you when you feel ready.

Rather than avoid feelings of grief, lean into them by surrounding yourself with friends and family. Consider taking the following actions: 

  • Accept help when it’s offered.
  • Confide in people whom you trust.
  • Participate in your loved one’s favorite activity together.
  • Share stories and fond memories of your loved one.

5. Reflect on the past year.

The new year is a time for reflection. Take time to recall the memories you have made in the past and think about the new memories you will make in the coming year. Is there something your loved one was looking forward to? Make it your goal to experience it for them. 

Listed below are a few simple ways you can focus on the positive in this fresh year:

  • Allow cherished memories with your loved one to propel you into the days and months ahead.
  • Celebrate life events, such as anniversaries and birthdays.
  • Continue rituals and traditions your loved one used to enjoy.
  • Find new ways to commemorate your loved one in your day-to-day life.
  • Remind yourself of the positive impact your loved one made on you.

A positive outlook can make all the difference in tackling the new year with positivity and purpose. Remind yourself of the joyous times you had together and think about how they would want to see you happy.

6. Try something new.

Was your loved one a philanthropic soul? Was there a hobby they always showed interest in? Consider taking time in the new year to adopt their interests and live out their dreams of volunteering or visiting a dreamed-of destination. It could even be something as simple as reading more, or as challenging as taking on a new language. 

You’ll be surprised at how much enjoyment you might find in picking up something new to honor your loved one.

7. Acknowledge that life is a gift.

Whether your loved one was just starting their life or was 100 years old, every day is a gift meant to be celebrated. Even though it might be hard, live each day with positivity and think about how your loved one would spend their day if they were still here with you.

If you feel comfortable, try writing in a daily journal to log your thoughts. Consider the following prompts to help get you started: 

  • Today I am thankful for…
  • Today I feel…
  • Today my goal is to…
  • Today I was reminded of my loved one when…
  • Tomorrow I will…

Remember that your journal is personal, so write as little or as much as you want each day. It’s okay to skip days or even weeks at a time, but writing your feelings can be therapeutic so when it feels right, give it a try.

8. Find joy in new pleasures.

Loss has the power to disrupt our lives and leave us feeling numb or hopeless. To help find yourself again, we encourage you to find small ways to give yourself new joy that will help open your heart to aliveness again. A few ways you can do this are by…

  • Practicing mindful meditation.
  • Practicing self care.
  • Engaging in creative expression.
  • Savoring the simple things.

When you learn to balance being present with your grief by opening up to joy, you may find that you’re experiencing more of a sense of aliveness than you were able to access prior to the loss.

9. Live in the present.

You never know exactly when you are going to lose a loved one—it could be sudden or it could have been a terminal illness. Bottom line is that we need to learn to be here now and live in the moment. You never know when those moments are going to be gone forever.

Being present and living every day mindfully not only makes us happier, it can also help us deal with pain more effectively, reduce our stress and grief’s impact on our health. While it may take time to get into this mindset, try to keep these guidelines in mind to help you during the process: 

  • Think about the past and the future in small doses.
  • Improve your ability to accept.
  • Enhance your engagement.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Visualize your daily goals.

10. Seek professional support.

If your grief seems like it’s too much to bear, we encourage you to seek professional assistance. You may have been thinking for a while that you might want to seek out a support group, grief center or professional therapist. If this is something you’ve been planning to do, resolve to take the first steps at the start of the new year.

There are many free support groups across Northeast Ohio dedicated to helping those who are grieving. Below, you will find a list of resources to help you cope:

Get the Grief Support You Need in the New Year and Beyond

The stages of grief are unpredictable. To help guide you through your grief journey, the Busch team created a weekly grief support newsletter. Subscribe today for guidance and healing advice as you handle grief.

Subscribe to our grief support newsletter

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Jim Busch
Jim Busch
Owner and president of our firm. Fourth generation funeral director and certified crematory operator, Jim is guided by his principles in faith, family and friends. He loves to hear feedback from our families. Proudly serving Busch families since 1986.

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