Grief in the New Year, Hope to Heal

12/30/2017 09:04 am ET Updated Dec 30, 2017

The weird, weird thing about devastating loss is that life actually goes on. When you’re faced with a tragedy, a loss so huge that you have no idea how you can live through it, somehow, the world keeps turning, the seconds keep ticking.James Patterson

Time waits for no one. When your loved one died, life as you knew it stopped, but the world around you, and the clock, continued ticking, moving forward without your loved one and sometimes it seemed to move on without you as well, leaving you feeling suspended in a type of time warp, unsure of how to escape it to move forward into some sort of a life without your loved one.

As 2018 approaches, we reluctantly add one more year to the list of years spent without our loved one. Whether you lost your loved one in 2017, or many years ago, it is important to remember that where there was great love, there will also be deep grief and no matter how long it has been since the death of your loved one that grief will continue to surface when you least expect it.

For every special moment you shared with your loved one, there will be just as many moments of emptiness and longing for them. Nostalgia is a part of grief that is a double-edged sword…remembering the love and happiness you shared ultimately brings the sharp pain of the void that is left in your life, and in your heart, without them. But no matter how painful it is remembering what you have lost, it is this love you shared that will eventually help you heal enough to find the life that is out there waiting for you to live. This may not be the life you had planned, but there is still some happiness that can be found.

There is hope to HEAL your broken heart enough to find some joy again.

H – Honor your pain and your loss

Give yourself permission to grieve regardless of how long it’s been since your loved one died. By honoring your loss, the unsettled emotions that are involved in your grief will become more manageable. Allow yourself to feel your loss and the emotions it brings. Remember the love you shared, and know that it is always with you. This love will always belong to you. This love can never be lost.

E - Engage actively in the process of healing

This process looks different for each of us. Start engaging in healing by becoming aware of any patterns of grieving that may keep you stuck in the pain. If you have inadvertently isolated yourself do your best to attempt to get back out among friends and family. They won’t necessarily understand what you’re going through, but they can still provide some companionship.

Try a support group, or possibly seeing a grief therapist. Sometimes just being able to talk about what you are feeling and going through can bring some relief and enable you to make small steps forward.

Journal your thoughts and feelings. For me, allowing my feelings to flow from me and through the pen out onto paper, provided a sense of comfort for me. My thoughts and feelings were no longer locked up inside me with no place to go.

A – Acknowledge the emotions that demand to be felt

The reality is that grief will drag you through a huge range of emotions, ranging from guilt to fear to despair to anger. The scope of possible emotions is almost endless. Each one of us will experience different emotions as we grieve, at different intensities and lengths. You should be aware that the emotional ups and downs that you are experiencing are normal. Healing your grief is a process. Don’t feel guilty that you are experiencing all of these emotions. These emotions are what you must experience to eventually heal your broken heart.

If you need to cry, cry. Your body is telling you that it needs the release that only tears can bring. If you need to scream, scream. If you keep the screams inside, they will eat at you, undermining your ability to mend your broken heart, and the repression of these emotions may eventually make you physically ill.

Let your emotions do what they are meant to do...Heal.

L – Look for small things that can bring some joy back into your life

When I was lost in my grief, I discovered small things that brought me happiness:

- Spending time with the young children in my family made me smile. Their innocent joy in life was infectious and I found happiness sharing time with them, bringing me hope that I could feel joy again.

-I intentionally sought out the few friends who could make me forget about my pain for a moment and laugh. I did my best to limit the amount of time spent around those people who brought me negative energy.

These are just a few of the ways that I eventually created a path that would lead me to a place where I was able to live with my losses and start to experience some joy again. Find what brings you some joy.

After millions of steps on my grief journey, I finally realize that every step I take is a step closer to being with my loved ones again. But, I also realize that it is my choice whether these steps are taken with sorrow, or whether I attempt to find some joy in the remainder of my journey. Finding joy in life again doesn’t mean you will ever forget your loved one. It does mean that you honor the place they had in your life and the love you shared...allowing love and loss to walk side by side into 2018. Pain and loss will change you, but they don’t have to define you.

You can find my book, The Other Side of Complicated Grief, here.

You can find my grief support group on Facebook here.

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