Updated: Jan 14, 2021
The end of 2020 - it's HERE. It's finally here.
I know some of you are like, "What about it? Our problems will still be here on January 1st." But I'm all about optimism, so I'm focusing on being happy that 2020 is something we can say we survived, not that we're currently surviving. It'll undoubtedly be nice to be able to say, “2020 is over”.
Who's with me?
This year has been a roller coaster for everyone and I've especially felt the ripple effect in my work with my clients. There's one thing I've learned that is universal for everyone, as I'm seeing it in and out of the therapy room: grief is abundant this year.
We've lost loved ones.
We've lost relationships.
We've lost friendships.
We've lost experiences.
And, at times, we've lost hope.
Regardless of what type of grief you're dealing with, it's hard, it's muddy, and sometimes we can feel like we're drowning in it.
The holidays just make grief that much harder.
The absence of a person especially becomes so much louder during the holidays, and the grief becomes harder to bear. Your grief can be so amplified because having to go through the holidays without that special someone is devastating.
I'm coming through today with some tips for managing your 2020 grief for the holidays, and onward.
Grief needs its place.
We can't fix it, but we can channel it. And that's what my tips are geared toward.
Note: Even if you don't feel like you're personally experiencing grief this holiday season, I guarantee you know someone who is. These tips can help you support and encourage them through the next month.
If you're grieving a person:
Start a new tradition in memory of your loved one. I love "in memory" traditions. It's a good way to have a guaranteed moment of reflection and honor for your loved one. While the first few years may be difficult, the tradition may end up being fun as time goes on.
Maybe your loved one loved reading, so you buy a Christmas book for your kids every year. Maybe there's a special candle you light in memory of their spirit.
I know starting a tradition sounds so cliché, but if something goes missing in your life, it's so important to usher something new in. Not as a replacement, but as a hole-filler. Make it easy, make it fun.
Take part in something that person loved. What did your loved one enjoy doing? Anything they loved in particular?
What was their favorite music? Make a playlist and listen to it.
Did they love raspberry cheesecake? Hit up The Cheesecake Factory for a slice.
Did they collect anything? Go buy yourself something that reminds you of it.
Did they enjoy doing any hobbies? Give it a try yourself.
Taking part can often help you feel like the person's spirit is still alive through your actions. It can make you feel closer to them spiritually, which I truly believe is one of the most comforting feelings in the midst of loss.
If you're grieving a relationship or a friendship:
Jot down memories of them. Listen up: *physically* write these down! Writing is therapeutic and it will feel good to dedicate some time just focusing on processing the loss of the relationship or friendship.
Write down special moments that you hold dear.
Write out the lessons you learned from your time with that person.
Write about what you hope to do in future relationships or friendships as a result of your experience of this loss.
I'm a big fan of always gaining something for yourself when you feel like you lost someone. If you didn't gain anything, then why did you go through all that heartache in the first place?
Write a letter of what you'd like to say to them. It doesn't matter if you're angsty toward the person you lost or you have good will toward them. Letters like this can go in so many directions.
Tell them all the things you left unsaid.
Tell them the regrets you have about the relationship/friendship.
Tell them how they hurt you.
Apologize if they deserve it.
Give them an update on how your life has been since you lost the relationship/friendship.
Tell them what you wish for them in the future, especially if it's wishing them the best.
Whether you actually give them the letter or not, it will help you process your feelings and it'll ventilate your emotions. Get it all out.
If you're grieving experiences:
What did you plan on doing this year that COVID totally ruined? Is there a moment you were looking forward to that you'll never get the chance to experience because COVID said, "nope."?
I call these “stolen experiences”.
Spend time processing these. Write them down and take time for yourself to be alone to fully feel your emotions. You're grieving an experience, and it's no less valid than grieving anything else. Find a sacred place where you can feel all the feels, without the worry of judgment from others. Maybe it's your car, a quiet room in your house, or your favorite coffee shop. Go there, process, and reflect.
Make a 2021 bucket list. (Do this after you've fully grieved your 2020 stolen experiences.) Start dreaming about how you can potentially make up for these in the year ahead. What didn't you get to do in 2020 that you want to make a priority in 2021? Is there anything that with some forethought and planning, you know will pack a punch in your happiness after grieving your stolen experiences? Make it a thing and keep your list handy. You never know when your best idea will come up.
There's life after loss, and there's life on the other side of 2020.
There's more to come.
I'm not saying it'll be all good, but it definitely won't be all bad. There's value in instilling hope right now - a hope that can carry strength and gratitude into the next year. It's coming so soon, and I hope you take some moments to yourself to reflect on what you personally have to look forward to in 2021.
So, congratulations. We've all made it to the home stretch. We have no option to keep going, but I do have faith that what's next will be worth the wait.
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Licensed Professional Counselor
Greta manages her own private practice in Blue Springs, MO providing therapy to women who struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. When she's not working, you can find Greta watching Big Brother with her husband or cuddling with their golden retriever.