New Year’s Eve grief

There is naturally a huge focus on Christmas for people who are grieving. It is a time to spend with those you love the most, so when someone is missing it makes sense that it is painful. However, for the most part, you can see it coming and emotionally prepare yourself.


Why can New Year's be hard for grievers?

What tends to catch many grievers off guard is New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day. Whilst logically it’s only the difference of a day, it feels more significant, because it’s another year on from the last time we’ve seen our loved one. 

Even in the best of times, New Year’s is a time of reflection over the past year, all the ups and downs. I’ve always found it quite an emotional time, whether it’s been a good year or not. It’s a focus on an ending, as well as a new beginning. Combine that with having lost a loved one in the year just passed, or in the years before, and your attention is drawn to the life that is going on without them.

What about New Year’s can be triggering?

As aforementioned, one of the biggest triggers about New Year's is the thought of it being another year since you last saw them, the thought of ‘I haven’t seen them since last year now’. Again, it doesn’t matter that it hasn’t necessarily been a whole year, or that in reality it’s only a day more, it’s how it feels. 

It’s common to have social occasions to attend over New Year’s, this is often another dilemma for someone working through grief. Which will feel worse - to go and see the New Year in at a party or event where others are celebrating, or to stay home, potentially alone, and not mark the occasion? It’s hard to know how we’re going to feel and often either option feels wrong because, given the choice, we wouldn’t be in this situation. 

It’s not uncommon to feel guilt at New Year’s, perhaps for surviving the year when your loved one did not, perhaps for attending a New Year's celebration whilst your loved one no longer can. Logically, you know that you’ve done nothing to feel guilty about, and even that your loved one would have wanted you to try and make the most of it, but it can still feel like you’re doing wrong.

Your social battery may already be low from the strain of Christmas, it’s hard work carrying all the heavy emotions and bittersweet memories whilst trying to mask how you’re feeling. In which case New Year’s can feel like just another hurdle as you trudge through on limp mode.

What helps?

Much of the advice we offer for making it through Christmas also applies to New Year’s, here are some of the main pointers:

Make sure any plans are flexible – it’s hard to know how you are going to feel until the time arrives. By making flexible plans, you won’t feel trapped by any decision that you’ve made, instead, you’re free to go along with what feels best for you.

Communicate – People can’t be respectful of your needs if they don’t know what they are, whilst it’s hard to be honest and vulnerable with those around you, it’s the best way to make sure that your needs are met.

Talk about your feelings – Talking about how you are feeling can help release some of the pressure, instead of them all building up with nowhere to go and overwhelming you.

Journalling - On the same vein as talking about your emotions, journalling can help to release some of the build-up. Whether you use it to write about how you are feeling or write a letter to your loved one containing everything you wish you could tell them, it can be cathartic to get thoughts and feelings out of your brain and onto paper.

Reach out for help – if it’s feeling hard to deal with the heightened emotions, consider joining a support group or seeking counselling to help validate your feelings and find ways to cope.

Kindness – Lastly, be kind to yourself as you go through difficult emotions. Remember that grief peaks during special days, and before long you will find a manageable level again. 

I hope that this article helps you feel less alone if New Year’s does turn out to be a tricky one for you, it’s a hard time for many. If you feel like you need a bit of extra support during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out and find it, whether in the form of a support group, some counselling sessions, or an honest conversation with someone you trust.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Derby, DE22 2DL
Written by Dandelions Bereavement Support
Derby, DE22 2DL

Fay has worked with bereaved people since leaving school at the age of 17. Originally training as a Funeral Arranger, she went on to specialise in bereavement support a few years later. In 2020 she qualified as a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, and has written two grief activity books to date.

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