5 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for Coping With Complicated Grief
Complicated grief is a difficult mental health issue that causes normal symptoms of grief to persist and become debilitating. The new year can be a hopeful time for anyone, even those struggling with this difficult condition. Consider resolutions for better mental health and goals that are positive, productive, and realistic. Committing to get professional support, relying on others for help, and focusing energy on creative endeavors are all reasonable ways to start the new year with a more hopeful outlook for recovery from complicated grief.
While complicated grief is not currently an official mental health diagnosis, many professionals recognize and treat it. If you have been struggling to get over the loss of a loved one for a year or more and can’t find joy in life without them, you may be experiencing complicated grief. The new year is a great time to take inspiration from new beginnings. Commit to making positive changes with these realistic and reasonable resolutions focused on recovering from grief.
What Is Complicated Grief?
Complicated grief means being unable to function or move on in a reasonable amount of time after the loss of a loved one. Grief is natural, and to struggle for a time is perfectly normal. But when your grief is debilitating, persists for more than a year, and prevents you from functioning normally or enjoying life, you could be diagnosed with complicated grief.
Some of the signs and symptoms of complicated grief include:
- Intense feelings of loss, sorrow, and pain
- Fixating on the loss
- Being unable to function normally
- Feeling numb or detached from the world
- Intensely focusing on or avoiding reminders of the loss
- Being unable to accept the loss
- Feeling as if life is no longer enjoyable or has no purpose
- Social isolation
- Wishing to die to be with a loved one
It Is Possible to Recover From Complicated Grief
There is hope if you struggle with this condition. Treatment is effective and is based on therapies and sometimes medications used for depression and trauma disorders. Therapy is the main focus of treatment, and for some people it helps to go to a residential facility to work on processing the loss and recovering from it. If you have been struggling with the loss of a loved one, consider these steps you can take in the coming year to begin to be able to enjoy life again.
1. Commit to Getting Treatment.
The best way to cope with, manage, and overcome complicated grief is with dedicated, expert, and professional treatment. For your own health and wellness, for your relationships and the ones you love, and for recovery, the most useful resolution you can make and keep is to try therapy or even residential care.
Complicated grief is a lot like trauma. The loss of a loved one is always difficult, but for some people it is a traumatic experience. If you have complicated grief, you are struggling with a type of trauma. Treatments that focus on identifying, processing, and managing trauma and traumatic memories can be a huge help.
Researchers have found that treatment with therapy that focuses both on grief and trauma can be helpful. Therapists who provide this type of care will help you manage stress, process difficult feelings, make positive behavioral changes, and re-engage with the world through the development of interpersonal skills.
2. Build Up Your Social Network.
There are many risk factors for developing complicated grief. Any loss can lead to this condition, but some people are more susceptible than others. One important risk factor is being socially isolated or having a limited social support network.
Even if you feel as if you have people around who care for and support you, there are always benefits to strengthening that network. Resolve to actively develop your close relationships with the people you trust. Also make a point to spend more time with friends, to meet new people, and to be socially active and engaged. Having a strong social life and having people you can talk to about your struggles will help you heal more quickly from complicated grief.
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3. Work on Your Physical Health.
Being physically healthy is important for good mental health. This doesn’t necessarily mean making big, unrealistic resolutions like eating perfectly, running a marathon, or losing a large amount of weight. Make small changes to improve your health, and little by little you will feel better physically, which in turn will help you better cope with grief and other negative emotions.
Some easy, reasonable resolutions you can make for your health include: taking a walk every day, going to bed earlier every night, cutting down on sugar or caffeine, going to your doctor for a physical, or joining a sports team or gym. Physical health resolutions pair particularly well with social resolutions. Find a friend or family member with similar goals and work together to hold each other accountable.
4. Join a Support Group.
Social support from loved ones can provide you with a great sense of relief and speed your healing. But they don’t necessarily understand what you’re experiencing. A support group can be a powerful healing tool, because it allows you to benefit from the experiences of others who are in a similar position.
Look for support groups for grief in general. You will likely meet some other people who are going through complicated grief. You may find support groups at your local church or other religious organization, at a community center, through your therapist or doctor, or even online.
5. Start a Creative Hobby
With something as difficult as intense grief, expression can be challenging. It may seem as if words cannot possibly describe how you feel or what you are trying to cope with and process. Art and creativity can help you express those feelings more productively.
Many treatment programs for complicated grief, trauma, and other mental illnesses make use of creative therapies to help the healing process. Trained therapists use art, music, dance, writing, and other creative activities to help patients face, cope with, and manage negative emotions. Studies have proven that creative activities can reduce distress, depression, and anxiety, and improve functioning in people struggling with grief.
Working with a therapist is a great idea, but you’ll also get some benefits by resolving to take up any creative endeavor in the new year. Take a painting class; learn photography; journal or write short stories; take music lessons; and do anything creative, even coloring.
Complicated grief is difficult. It may feel as if you will never get past this, but there is hope. Use these resolutions to make positive changes in the coming year. Above all, if you are not coping, if you are not healing, functioning, or recovering, seek professional mental health treatment. This condition is treatable.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles-based program and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.