January – The cold, bleak month

No time is a good time to be mourning, but January seems to feel appropriate. It generally feels a bit bleaker than the rest of the year. You’re bombarded with messages about great diets to kick start the year with because you’ve (apparently) eaten/drunk too much over Christmas. You’re scraping ice off the car every morning and the house feels a bit bare now all the decorations are down.

January can, however, be seen as a time for new beginnings. We’re also hit with messages of ‘new year, new start!’, that now is the time to make changes, to move on from the past etc.

This sums up quite well what it can feel like in the initial stages of grief. Feeling bleak, hopeless, with no energy or warmth. Yet also, you may be told that it’s time to move on. Depending what your relationship with the person who has passed away was like, others may see it as almost a good thing that they’re no longer alive. You may feel that it marks the start of a new chapter in your life.

If you’re not grieving for a person, or animal, this may be true. No longer having that job which paid well but took over your life may be giving you the chance to spend more time with those you love = a new beginning.

From my own experiences, the early days were definitely bleak. Even getting showered and dressed felt like climbing a mountain – staying in bed, hiding from the world and therefore the new reality, seemed much more appealing. I was, on many days, literally hauled out of bed, forced into the bathroom and given food and drink. This might be all you can manage at first and, if that’s the case, that’s fine. Sometimes we find ourselves at points in life where we cannot comprehend what has happened, caught in a perpetual loop of asking ‘why?’ and not wanting to face what has happened. In these times, focus on the basic needs – food, water, getting out of bed, washing, dressing, getting sleep – because we need to accomplish these to be able to tackle everything else. (This is known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This link explains this quite simply. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4136760)

I mention the ‘why’ loop. This is a well recognised stage of grief. The one that we can slowly drift into as we drift out of the initial shock. In the case of losing a loved one very suddenly, I know I was caught up in the ‘why’ loop for a while. Why did they have to die? Why did it happen the way it did? Why did they have no idea? Why now? Why them? Why? Why? Why? It’s not a good place to be in, for you or anyone you live with. I certainly didn’t like that my mind kept taking me there. Those close to me listened, patiently, as I went around in this loop while gently trying to pull me out of it, to make a break in the loop. I realised I was caught up in it and gradually managed to find my way out. I began telling myself more often that some questions would never be answered, I would never know why, that although this was a perfectly normal reaction I needed to get out of it and focus on other things.

The ‘why?’ loop may last days or weeks or even longer . . . But it will stop. You will come to realise that you are caught in a loop and that the energy spent there can be re focused elsewhere. If you’re needed in funeral preparations put your mind to it and use it as a way to remember all the good memories you have of that person. If there are tasks to be done at home, even if it’s simple chores, make yourself a list each day of what needs to get done. You will find you will come out of the loop and putting your energy into those other things will help it to happen.

What about if it is a new start, a new chapter in your life? Is it ok not to feel sad? Of course it is! We all react differently to whatever life throws at us. It is possible to grieve for someone and yet to feel that there is hope for your future, especially if the relationship you had with that someone was not a healthy or enjoyable one. You may be feeling relieved that it has come to an end. If you’ve lost someone who was incredibly ill, there is often a sense of relief, of a weight being lifted, that they are no longer suffering.
Where the grief is for losing a job which also brings about huge changes in your life, it may a jumbled bag of emotions. Grief that you no longer get to work with colleagues who have supported you at difficult times, who have become like a family to you. Grief that you will no longer be somewhere you have been for many years, no longer doing a job you love. Yet amongst all that, feeling excited for a new challenge, for meeting new people, a new future. Embrace all these emotions as they happen. Let them happen, feel them, experience them as they are all important.

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