New Year’s Resolutions for Grievers

Resolve To:

1. Go easy on yourself:This may sound obvious, or even cliché, but it is easier said than done. Don’t place expectations on yourself that you may not be able to live up to.  Whenever possible, try not to set timetables on when elements of your life (like work or other activities) will be back to ‘normal’.  Don’t put pressure on yourself or allow others to pressure you into feeling like you should be ‘over’ the loss.

2. Spend time with people you like: Life after grief can be isolating.  Resolve to spend at least a little time in the first half of this year with people who make you feel happy and well supported.  You may want to choose individuals who have experienced the same loss or you may want to spend time with people far removed from the loss.  You may want to distance yourself from those who have not been helpful or supportive.  Think about what you need – an escape, the absence of judgement, people who are fun, people who understand, or people who remember your loved one – and then plan accordingly.

3. Engage in one hobby or activity that makes you feel good:  I will stop short of preaching about the importance of exercise.  I think we hear a lot about exercise resolutions and frankly, you may not be in the mood. However, I will say that exercise does wonders for your mental and physical health, so if the hobby you chose involves physical activity then 10 bonus points for you.  Any hobby that you find enjoyable can be beneficial to your mental health.  Hobbies can provide us with all the following:
– An escape
– An outlet for negative energy
– A means for getting together with other people
– An excuse to have alone time
– Feelings of accomplishment, productivity, and fulfillment
Journaling and writing are excellent hobbies for grievers, as are hobbies involving self-expression (like art and photography).

4.  Be honest about how you feel:  Around 3 to 6 months after a loss many people feel compelled to start putting on a ‘happy face’ for ourselves, our families, and our friends. We may just want people to start treating us normally.  Or we’re worried that if we keep talking about the death, we will alienate those around us.  Perhaps we so desperately want to be okay again that we try to fool ourselves.  Over time though all this pretending can become stressful.
I understand there are reasons why you may not want to tell your co-worker or your cashier at Walmart how your day is really going but finding ways to express your real feelings can be beneficial.  This could mean answering honestly when a trusted friend asks how you’re doing or joining a support group where talking about grief is commonplace.  If you are really private, journaling might be the answer.  Whatever it is, find a place where you can express your true feelings. It will ultimately do wonders for your understanding of yourself and your emotions.

5.  Speak your loved one’s name:  Keep speaking your loved one’s name.  Remember them at holidays with family and friends, write about them in e-mails or letters, recount stories.  It can make you feel much closer to those who are no longer here.

6.  Live in a way your loved one would have wanted:  Have you ever seen the movie ‘Up’?  Right, I know it’s a kid’s movie, but it has some very grown-up concepts.  In a nutshell, Carl and his wife Ellie dream of going to a lost land in South America.  They save throughout their entire marriage, placing coins in a jar here and there.  But then life gets in the way and they keep having to spend their money on things like car repairs.  After 70 years, Ellie dies, and Carl remembers the promise he made to her to go to this lost land. That’s when he ties like a million balloons to his house and the adventure begins. Guys, seriously, it’s the best.
But anyway…be Carl!!!  Think of one thing that your loved one would have wanted for you or a dream you both had, and then find a way to make it happen.  This resolution may take work and/or savings, but it will feel great to carry out a dream or a desire that started with your loved one.  Think creatively, maybe your husband would have wanted you to have a companion, so you get a puppy.  Maybe your Disney vacation savings was wiped out after months of cancer treatments.  Get the jar back out and start saving again.

7.  Support someone else:  While you may still feel completely raw, when you are ready you can look for ways to support others who are grieving.  For some, just knowing there are other people who have experienced similar losses is helpful.  Try going to a support group; offer support and suggestions to others in online support forums, blogs, or social media sites; or send a card to someone in the community who has recently been through a loss.  Grief changes us forever.  You may eventually find that it has given you wisdom, strength, and insight; share these gifts with others in need.  Please keep in mind, everyone grieves differently.  Remember their experience may not be the same as yours, and what helped you may not be helpful to them.  If you are further out from your loss and thinking about this as a resolution, you may want to check out our post about supporting others.

8.  Plan opportunities for remembrance:  Think of 1 or 2 possible ways to formally remember your loved one.  You could participate in a walk/run in their honor; start a scholarship fund; or have a memorial party on their birthday. Also, think of some less formal ways to remember. You could have a favorite photo of the person framed for yourself and other friends and family; create a memorial scrapbook, or document favorite memories in a journal.

9.  Seek professional help:  There may be a point when you decide you need some extra help.  A loss can have a profound effect on the health of an individual, marriages, and families.  You may decide that you want to sit down with a therapist, either by yourself or with members of your family. You should absolutely give yourself permission to do this!  If you have questions about the logistics of getting help, check out our post on getting professional grief support.

These suggestions are just to get you thinking.  Hopefully, one resonates but depending on how long ago you experienced a loss you may not find this list is right for you.  If that is the case, take some time thinking about any specific things you may have been avoiding or putting off.  These are often items that need attention and making them your resolution may be just the kick in the pants you need to get them done.

(Originally posted on