Dealing with grief on 'Blue Monday' and the New Year
Some simple tips from our member hospices to help you get through not just January, but any time of year, if you’re dealing with your grief.
‘New year, new you’ is a phrase often heard as January kicks in, with many people choosing to make new year’s resolutions, take up a healthier lifestyle, and have a more positive outlook.
But if you’re grieving, it can be an unhelpful turn of phrase. While all around you, people are displaying their new found positivity, you may feel like doing the complete opposite. Perhaps you are struggling with feelings of loneliness, compounded by the long, dark nights.
The idea of 'Blue Monday', which usually falls on the third Monday of January, is simply a marketing phrase coined by a psychologist in 2004, who was asked for a 'scientific formula' for the January blues.
This ‘formula’ takes into account a range of factors, including low post-holiday feelings, typically bad weather, increased debt level, and low motivation levels. Yet many say that the term Blue Monday adds anxiety and pressure to an ordinary day. This can be especially poignant if you’re grieving, as you try to come to terms with facing a new year without the person you love.
However, many organisations now use the day as a means to normalise discussions about wellbeing, grief and mental health.
Here are some recommendations from our member hospices on how to deal with grief in the new year:
Ask for and accept help
There will be people who want to help and may offer their support. Take them up on their offers. If people aren’t offering, ask. It can be a relief for you and the person who you have asked for help.
Listen to your own instinct
Don’t feel guilty about declining invitations or skipping events, it may just feel too much without a loved one.
Ignore the people that tell you what you ‘should’ be doing. Listen to yourself, trust yourself, communicate with your family and friends and do what feels right for you.
Don’t feel guilty about enjoying yourself
If you do manage to do something fun or enjoy yourself with family or friends, try not to feel guilty. People often say they remember the first time they really laughed or enjoyed themselves after a bereavement. Then they felt instantly guilty that they shouldn’t be feeling happy, that they had no right to. It’s a perfectly normal reaction, and you are not alone in feeling like this.
Remember that you do have every right to feel joy and happiness. None of our loved ones, alive or dead, would begrudge us this. So try to keep at bay any expectations of how you are going to feel.
Just let your feelings be what they are, and don’t suppress them. It’s ok not to be ok, and it’s ok to find that maybe it wasn’t as bad as you had anticipated it was going to be.
Be forgiving to yourself
Let self-compassion replace any self-criticism as you do your best to balance your general enjoyment of life with your grief. Be forgiving of well-meaning others who may try to help you by “cheering you up”.
Remember always, you grieve because you loved. May you have peace and light as you embrace your story of love and loss.
Embrace the complexity of emotions
Grief is a personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Emotions can be especially intense as we reminisce about the past, and of times with those who have died. It’s essential to recognise that feeling a mix of sadness, nostalgia, and even moments of joy is a normal part of the grieving process.
From Rotherham Hospice.
Reframe your grief
The actor Andrew Garfield (whose mother died in late 2019), in a famous interview with the US talk show host Stephen Colbert, eloquently said:
“I love talking about this….grief is the unexpressed love we feel for the person. We never get enough time…no matter if someone lives until 60, 15, or 99. So I hope this grief stays with me, because it’s all the unexpressed love that I didn’t get to tell her. And I told her every day.”
The message is that grief doesn’t magically end after a certain point in time; it affects everyone differently and there are many stages to the grieving process. The main thing is to look after yourself, physically and mentally, and seek support when you need it.
Give yourself something to look forward to. It can be something as simple as meeting up with a friend for a socially distanced walk or as important as starting the search for a new job. Making plans like these will give you a boost and most importantly something to look forward to.
Give back: try volunteering
January is the perfect time to start a new adventure in the third sector. Volunteering has numerous proven health benefits, and with the supposed ‘Blue Monday’ approaching, it could be a great time to start a volunteering role with your local hospice charity.
Volunteers are vital in running hospice shops and donation centres and most are in need of more helping hands - even if you can only spare a couple of hours a week, they’d be most grateful to hear from you.
From St Clare Hospice, Essex.
Treat yourself with compassion, and acknowledge your relationship with grief without judgement or shame. This will give you the space to tend to what hurts while loving the memories that remain.