Coping with grief at the start of a new year

The start of a new year is often accompanied by hope – the idea of a clean slate and a fresh start – but when you’re grieving for a loved one, the new year may bring a number of more difficult emotions with it. We spoke to our team of Online Counsellors for their thoughts and advice on coping with grief at the start of a new year.

An older man sits in an armchair and looks on an ipad

Louise Teal on making resolutions

Having navigated the difficulty of Christmas and New Year, the hardest time for those experiencing loss, we pause for breath only to realise we face the coming year and a future without our loved one.

As the New Year starts we are accustomed to setting intentions, to begin again, to refresh and go forward in a positive way. This can often mean holding high expectations of ourselves and unrealistic goals for emotional recovery, which is not always possible for those who are grieving for a loved one.

I notice the difficulties such resolutions can cause for bereaved individuals as they try, with the start of the New Year, to visualise an end to suffering and resolve to come through their pain. Attempting to direct and control the grieving process can be unrealistic and, like many resolutions and intentions, destined to end in failure. This can result in a feeling that we have let ourselves down, that we should be over this, and that there will never be an end.

I suggest that we don't hope to end our grieving, but that we try to acknowledge where we are in our grief journey and recognise how far we have travelled. In doing so, we can recognise the need to be kind to ourselves when we realise there is more work to do. In offering ourselves some self-compassion we can begin to cope with loss in our own way and at a time that suits us.

Clare Pearl on finding connection

The loss of a loved one can be a very lonely time and Christmas and the festive season can make feelings of loneliness a lot harder to bear. Finding ways to connect with others can often lead to the discovery that you’re not alone in your grief and that others understand how you feel.

Some people find comfort and support in sharing their experiences and how they feel with other people. Support groups, whether offline or online, such as our Online Community, can be a good place to meet people who have had similar experiences.

Just the simple act of listening without judgment can be very powerful, and it’s often those of us who have experienced loss who are more able to bear the pain of another’s loss. When you feel heard by someone who is willing to just be alongside you for a while, it can bring great relief.

Kevin Molloy on the passing of time

As a year progresses people who are grieving are likely to be very aware of the passing of time. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other special days can be markers in the year and often come with intensified feelings and memories. This normal response can be a challenge to process and manage, but it is an element in healing the wounds of bereavement.

For some people coping with bereavement, the celebration and joyous anticipation of the New Year can be absent as they focus more on the past and dread the future without their loved one. There are, however, things that may help, for example: the support of family and friends, work, bereavement rituals, planning holidays, getting a pet, starting a project, learning an instrument, decorating, or meeting new people.

It is important to remember that everyone’s experience of bereavement is unique and what may work for someone you know, may not work for you.

Our Online Bereavement Counselling Service

Our Online Bereavement Counselling Service provides free, confidential and professional support to anyone who is grieving for a loved one. We offer an initial assessment followed by up to six weekly sessions with one of our trained bereavement counsellors.

Sessions are held over video chat, meaning that the service can be accessed from the comfort and safety of home.

This service is currently available to members of our Online Community.

Is our Online Bereavement Counselling Service right for you?

Find out more including how to book an appointment.

Eleanor Baggley

Online Community Manager

Eleanor Baggley