If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that 2020 was definitely unexpected. Personally, I felt blindsided. I had plans for the year, I had dreams to pursue, and routines that I had worked long and hard to cultivate that made me feel great. And that all disappeared.
2021 feels different. I may not know what to expect, but I know what not to expect: Normalcy. Embracing that feels good, and I am working on finding comfort in the certainty of uncertainty.
However, as I watched my social media feeds flood with “New Year” posts, I felt this strange weight settle onto my shoulders. The weight of resolutions and improvement. The pressure to make 2021 my “Best Year Ever” when, in all honesty, I think surviving this year with a modicum of sanity will be the loftiest goal I can aim for.
Especially now, when we have all come through a year of immense grief, loss, and trauma, I think we can grant each other permission to drop the “Best Year Ever” trope and aim instead for a year of kindness, to ourselves and one another.
One month in, after so many have abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions, I want to offer you some realistic goals in pursuit of balance, especially when we are grieving.
1. Be kind to yourself
It is okay to not be okay. There will be days that you are not firing on all cylinders, and that is the nature of grief. On those days, give yourself grace to just be, exactly as you are. If that means accepting that you won’t get to everything on your to-do list, that is okay. If that means you need to go slower than normal so you don’t completely stop, that is okay. If that means being alone, seek solitude. If that means needing company and someone to sit with, reach out to a trusted friend. Recognize what you need right now in your grief journey (which may be vastly different than what you need tomorrow, 3 weeks from now, or 6 months from now) and give yourself that, even if it looks different than what you had planned for that day.
2. Find comfort in the familiar
We all have our favorites - favorite movies, restaurants, songs, and hobbies. Taking the time to bask in the comfort of a TV show where we know the ending can be soothing. Sitting down to tackle a hobby we have been practicing since childhood offers a comfortable flow that learning a new skill does not. Resolutions tend to focus on new things, things we need to change. This year, make a resolution to identify the familiar activities that bring you comfort, and make more time for them.
3. But also try something new
I know, I know. I just said focus on the familiar! And while I hold to that, adding one or two new things to the mix provides room for growth without remove all the emotional safety of a comfortable routine.
Try takeout from a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Pick up a hobby that you’ve always wanted to master but never had the time for. Try new self-care techniques. You may pick up a newfound love for journaling, painting, cooking, yoga or poetry.
You can even use this resolution as a way to connect to your loved one. Maybe they had a hobby or a food they loved, that you just never got into. Trying it now, with their memory in mind, can help you feel connected to them, even after their death.
My grandma loved Spam. I ate it with her all the time as a child, but I haven’t touched it since her death. This year, I want to try cooking with Spam again, merging my love of new recipes and creative cooking with my memories of my grandma.
4. Openly remember the loved ones we have lost
If you want to, say your person’s name. Say it out loud, to yourself and to others.
Talk about them to others and tell and re-tell your favorite stories.
Plan one new way to honor their memory this year. That could be signing up for a run in their honor, throwing a remembrance party on a day that was special to them, or making a special memory box filled with things that remind you of them.
5. Normalize professional help (for you and those you love)
Mental health is a hot topic right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to open up about our own mental health journey.
This year, focus on normalizing professional help when it is needed. A great way to start is familiarizing yourself with the resources available to you in your local area. Here in Tulsa, check out 211 or Tulsa Area United Way partner agencies. The more you know about the resources at your disposal, the easier it will be to reach out for help when you need it, or to support a loved one who is struggling.