It’s a new year, but grief doesn’t know the difference. And while new year’s resolutions may have served their purpose in the past, we’re embracing the spirit of rest and reflection in order to start 2022 with intention.
So whether you’ve lost a remarkable loved one in 2021, or really ever, this article is for you to help kick off the new year, together with grace. It’s also for you if you’re grieving the life and freedom you had before a worldwide pandemic, loss of a job, or the ending of a relationship. There are many types of grief to consider here, but my goal is to make this article helpful for all types of grief.
The Elephant in the Room: Grief
The one thing that remains the same going into this new year is that grief is universal, yet unique. While all of us humans experience loss, we all encounter grief in different ways.
Every person has unique life experiences and relationships that have shaped who they are and the outlook they have on the world. And while this can be frustrating when you don’t necessarily agree with someone else’s opinion, uniqueness it’s what makes this world such a beautiful and interesting place. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same?
I lost my baby cousin when I was 5 and now I can recognize how that loss shaped me into who I am today. But as a kid I was confused and couldn’t always understand that my entire family was also grieving in remarkably different ways.
With time, reflection, subsequent losses, and spending the last few years writing about the remarkable lives that are being transformed into a diamond at Eterneva, I’ve learned to accept that everyone handles grief differently. I believe everyone has permission to feel what they need to feel and take as much time as they need to in order to heal a broken empty heart.
Grief is tough. It’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It shows up how we least expect it and often forces us to turn towards the dark so that we can learn from it and reenter the light with newfound wisdom. If we never turn towards the dark and feel the tough emotions, we are robbing ourselves of what it means to be human.
I’ve also learned that by turning toward all of the feelings of grief, including the “negative” ones like sadness, anger, fear, apathy, etc., while also finding healthy coping mechanisms, we can find unprecedented meaning, creativity, appreciation and joy in life.
But learning from loss and becoming inspired takes time, reflection and intention. So that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Now, instead of worrying about a new goal to focus on in the new year, let’s take a different approach and start the new year with rest and reflection so that we can start living with intention and transform our loss into something beautiful, together!
From Grieving to Mourning
In 2021 I lost my cat, Chewbacca, after months of gradual decline. I work from home and Chewy was always there to lift my spirits. She healed me when I needed her most and I was there to take care of her in her final months, weeks and days.
It was brutal, but also one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. As I explained in my journal…
“There’s no mistaking that you’re with me every day, shining your light, keeping us warm, bringing us strength, helping us adapt, and reminding us to love.
You helped give me the best and worst year of my life. I broke into pieces starting the day you wanted to hide in the closet, signaling you were ready for the dark.
When we know, we know. And I knew you knew.
I used to cry everyday knowing that you were sick and going to leave me. It’s as if you had to bring us closer together and force me to feel what it is I needed to heal. You kept me warm when I was cold and you purred to soothe us both. When I had headaches, you were there to help shut my laptop. I looked after you and you looked after me.
And don’t get me wrong, I still cry. I’m crying right now. I know you wouldn’t want me to stop feeling. You’d want me to go on living. You’d want to sniff every plant I grow and read every last book with me. You’d be clawing at the door to wake me up early and take on the day. You’d want your alone time and so you’d appreciate that we go on living. Loving.”
Once Chewy left us, I was preparing a post for Eterneva and came across the difference between grieving and mourning that really helped me understand loss on a deeper level. Adapted from the Canadian Health Association, here are my takeaways.
- Grief is what we think and feel on the inside when someone we love dies. It’s the internal meaning given to the experience of loss.
- Mourning is the expression of one’s grief.
- We mourn not just by wearing black, but by talking, crying, journaling/letter writing, starting a new project, using art or music as a means of expressing our grief.
- Most people experience grief when someone they love dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn.
- We move toward integrating the loss into our lives not just by grieving, but by mourning.
So, if we’re going to integrate loss into our lives, we need to both grieve and mourn. We need to feel and we need to express. And while rest and relaxation can help give you the space to feel your grief, reflection and intention setting can help you mourn your loss. Shall we get started?
Start the New Year with Moments of Rest & Relaxation
It’s easy to get into our own heads about everything that needs to be done and accomplished in the new year and end up feeling overwhelmed about going back to work and life. Not to mention the varying emotions and symptoms of grief that only add to the equation.
So this year, let’s try something new, with intention.
Rest isn’t just not working, instead it’s an intentional effort to connect to yourself, build awareness, and let go of whatever it is that no longer serves you. It’s feeling what you need to, getting plenty of sleep, saying no to things that don’t feel right, eating nutritious food, drinking enough water, limiting your exposure to toxicity, and developing a healthy relationship with stress.
Now before you start thinking that you’re way too busy to rest or relax, I hear you. I used to think I could only have one or the other… either we’re busy or resting.
But we can find small moments throughout the day that help us rest and relax that we integrate into our daily lives. It starts with little experiments like going for a walk outside as the sun sets, closing your eyes to meditate between calls, or finishing a hectic day by cooking a hearty meal.
While there are countless ways to rest and relax, only you will know what makes you feel most relaxed. What’s important is that you come back to you, do a quick inventory and ask yourself what it is that you need. As you experiment with different ways to relax, try to find the ones that work well and implement those into your routine.
Grounding Breathwork & Awareness
Start with focusing on your breath when you feel overwhelmed. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds before repeating for a few breaths. This is called the box breath and is used by the U.S. Navy SEALs in high-stress situations to aid in stress management and overall wellness.
Once you do this breath and feel it’s calming effects, start to approach your next step with a clearer mind. Try asking yourself a question or two to build your rest and relaxation awareness.
- How stressed am I?
- What are my stressors?
- What/where/who helps me feel relaxed?
- When do I feel most rested? What activities led to that?
- How can I do more of what makes me feel relaxed given my current situation?
- What would my loved one say to me when I need comfort?
- What did my loved one do to relax?
- Where is my happy place? What does it look like? Can I close my eyes and visualize it?
- How can I reframe my stressors so that I can see the benefit?
Allow this to be your permission to take a step back and rest. Often the first time someone tries to relax after months or years of constant stress, it’s very difficult to stop the mind and feel content doing nothing.
Be patient with yourself and know that your body, mind, and future self are thanking you for any of the time you dedicate to rest. Today’s rest is tomorrow’s bounty.
Here’s a list of things I’ve tried in order to relax and have worked in some capacity.
- Give yourself permission to rest
- Disconnect from screens
- Take a nap
- Take a shower (maybe try ending the shower with cold water)
- Listen to a guided meditation on InsightTimer
- Practice yoga
- Practice meditating
- Drink an herbal tea (uncaffeinated)
- Sit in nature and observe
- Go somewhere that inspires you and makes you feel small, like the forest
- Get a massage
- Practice breathwork
- Go for a leisurely walk
- Sweat it out in a sauna
Reflect on Your Loss
During our journey with grief and mourning, a new year can feel hard to start without those we’ve lost. So let’s find a way to incorporate our loved ones into the process.
Reflecting on the time we spent with our loved ones and what we learned from them helps us connect to our loved ones, even when they’re not present.
At the end of last year I spent hours crying as I wrote a letter to my sweet Chewbacca. While the tears will never bring her back, I noticed that as I felt the emotions and expressed myself through writing, the grief felt lighter. The grief was still there, but much more manageable.
Need some questions to help get your reflection started? Here are a few journal prompts to consider pondering.
- What do you miss about your loved one?
- What do you wish they could hear you say?
- What attributes of your loved one do you miss the most?
- What are the little things your loved ones did that were special to you?
- What do you admire most about your loved one?
- What did your loved one teach you?
- How will you apply what your loved one taught you to your life?
- How will you honor your loved one?
- How will you celebrate your loved one?
- How would your loved one want you to move forward?
Set Your Intention
An intention is a simple word or phrase that you can use as an anchor throughout the year. A new year’s intention is less focused on a specific goal, resolution, or something to do. Instead, it’s a guide to keep you grounded throughout the year.
When times get tough and grief feels like too much, it’s a simple reminder to turn to what you’ve learned from your loved one through your grief and mourning, and how you want to proceed in a way that will honor and celebrate their life.
Example New year intentions to consider in 2022
If you’re having a hard time thinking of an intention that resonates with you or simply want an intention that will honor your loved one specifically, try writing down your favorite qualities your loved one embodied. Then, choose one or two of these qualities to focus on as an intention in the next year.
What would your loved one want you to do? What is your deepest desire? Here are some examples to consider.
- Heal – make rest a priority & let in the light
- Inspire – help spark creativity in yourself & others
- Create – build towards your dreams one step at a time
- Give – help those who need it in your community
- Celebrate – enjoy something in your life every day
- Patience – slow down, be present and listen
- Gratitude – remember all that is good & abundant
- Connection – spend more time loving & laughing
- Progress – appreciate the small steps along the journey
Living with Intention
Now, once you’ve picked an intention (or a few), how will you use it?
This year after some rest, relaxation, and reflection, I chose the intentions to heal and inspire. Now as I go through my days, I think about what I can do to heal and inspire both myself and those around me. I give myself permission to live with these intentions. I remember what my loved ones have taught me and choose these words to help honor and celebrate their remarkable lives.
In order to start living with your intention, here are a few things to try implementing:
- Write it down in a prominent place that you’ll see every day.
- Find quotes that help you articulate the intention and write those down too.
- Ask yourself, what daily, weekly, monthly habits would support this intention?
- Share with others and encourage them to share their intentions in return.
- Every month, write down the ways in which you lived with your intention.
- Create a mantra that you repeat to yourself every morning and every night before bed. It can be as simple as “I am a healer” or “I live in peace.”
- Ask others about how they think you can live with your intention for new ideas.
- If you need to, change your intention! Most importantly, it should feel right to you.
Remember, the goal with an intention is to have an anchor to come back to when everything else feels chaotic. It’s not something that should cause you extra stress that you have to complete, rather a light that you can focus on in order to live a life with intention and purpose.
From one grieving soul to another, I’m so grateful you took this time with me in order to deepen your connection with your remarkable loved one and move forward in life with intention. Wishing you a bright new year with loads of little things that bring you joy.