The first year following the loss of a loved one can be particularly challenging. This “Year of Firsts” is full of reminders – from day-to-day tasks such as the first trip to the grocery store to major holidays and anniversaries – there are moments that sneak into your day when you least expect it.
Grief and loss are present as much in the “little things” that enriched your relationship as in the death experience itself. Each “first” may be one more way the thief continually returns to pickpocket your emotional reserves and coping abilities when your loss is still fresh.
Surviving this first year requires you to realize that each first experience is laden with both memory and power. Sometimes this power triggers tears and sadness in ways that seem arbitrary, never-ending, and overwhelming. Yet, as time passes and you receive support that power becomes less crippling. One helpful goal is to remember and honor your memories. Then they may be seen as gifts freely given rather than possessions cruelly taken by the thief. Developing a sense of gratitude for these experiences may replace the resentment you feel about your loss and allow you to resume your life enriched by the experience.
Here are a few tips for moving through grief in the year of firsts:
Cry – Crying is a natural physical release of emotion. Suppressing our deep emotions invites prolonged grief and possibly depression. Everyone overwhelmed by sorrow and pain may weep. Tears are a part of being human.
Hope – Hope springs eternal, even in the darkest times. Just as a tiny seed is planted deep in the soil, given time, sunlight, and water, a sprig will push its way through dirt and rocks to begin a new and different life. Hope works on people, too. As it grows in you, grief will diminish.
Be Grateful – Each day look for small things for which you are grateful. Perhaps you are grateful for the life lived with your loved one and the memories created. Perhaps you are grateful for the people in your life today. Out of that gratitude, you may be inspired to do something for someone else.
Create – Find creative expressions for your grief. Keep a journal. Write a blog. Paint and draw. Sing, play an instrument. Build something. Use your emotional energy in new ways to express yourself.
When you are ready, fully re-engage with the world.