The new year offers a time for reflection and looking ahead. For the widowed community, it can be a double-edged sword: wanting to move forward while holding onto the precious memories of a late spouse.

With so much hurt and pain in the world, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to consider the following four Gs while working on 2021 resolutions:

Grace

Give yourself grace throughout 2021. You survived the hell of 2020. Whether you made it through with flying colors or by the skin of your teeth, celebrate all you’ve accomplished and forgive yourself for the mistakes and missteps.

So often, we look at the widowed person in our support group and feel we should be where they are – having it all together, dating, traveling, remarriage, etc. Please remember grief is not a mu-mu. It’s not one size fits all. Despite the commonality of having lost a spouse, no two widowed journeys are the same. Don’t compare yourself. Focus on you.

At times, it may not seem as though you’re moving forward. But I encourage you to look back at where you’d been and where you are. You might not be where you want to be in your healing, but consider yourself a work in progress. Some days you take two steps forward; other days you’ve taken 10 steps back. The key is to keep moving.

You can’t change the decisions you made when you were in the thick of grief. You did the best you could with the tools you had at the time. Make peace with those regrets and/or learn from them.

You deserve the grace you so freely give to others.

Guilt

Widowhood and grief sometimes go hand in hand. Whether it was because you were not there when your partner took his/her last breath or didn’t have an opportunity to resolve an argument, guilt can complicate our loss. Regardless of the reason for your guilt, I hope you’ll consider leaving some of that burden in 2020.

If you’re beating yourself up for finding happiness post-loss. Stop. You have been through one of the most difficult things that can happen to someone. You’ve spent countless hours crying and trying to make sense of your loss. You’ve struggled with insecurities, fear, anxiety, existing in a world without your partner, and more. So when you finally get to a place where these feelings no longer dominate your day-to-day life and there is happiness, embrace it.

Grief

Though grief will forever be part of our life, it evolves. It doesn’t necessarily get smaller, but the crippling effect of our loss eventually gets to a point where we can function, then to a place where we can survive and ultimately thrive.

It’s okay to bend with your grief. You aren’t a bad person if your grief is no longer front and center in your life, just as you’re not “stuck” on days when the grief waves threaten to drown you.

There’s a quote that stays, “It’s okay to have a bad day. Just don’t unpack and live there.” The same is true of your grief. Please don’t ignore it or try to outrun it though. Often times we try to drown out our grief by drinking, self-medicating, shopping, etc., but as we prepare to face a new year, ask yourself: How’s that working for you? You can’t heal from what you don’t face. If you find yourself struggling, afraid to face the reality of your pain and grief, please consider a professional therapist or a support group. There is no shame in seeking out resources to be a better version of yourself.

Growth

Though widowhood is a major part of our life story, it doesn’t have to be the totality of who we are or who we have yet to become. For so long, I thought my identity needed to be tied to widowhood as a reminder of how much I loved my husband. But, I am so much more than being a widow, and it’s okay to embrace all those other parts of me.

You will always be the widow of your late spouse or partner. Nothing changes that; not even dating or remarriage. It’s okay to hold onto that and treasure his/her memory and take parts of that story with you as you move forward. It’s also okay to be more. It may not always feel like it, but you’re a whole person, even with what feels like a part of your heart missing.

Discover who you are post-loss. Nurture your inner artist. Tap into your love of writing. Be adventurous and give wings to the free-spirit that remains inside you. Celebrate being a doting mother or grandmother. Feed your curiosity and switch careers. As long as you are still breathing, there can be growth. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 75.

Give yourself permission to be more than his/her widow in 2021.

Kerry Phillips

Kerry Phillips

Kerry was widowed at age 32. She is the author of “Letters to the Widowed Community” and “The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons on Love, Loss and Life.” In 2015, she realized there wasn’t a forum for widows and widowers wanting to venture back into the world of dating and started Young, Widowed & Dating. The online support group provides a safe, supportive and nonjudgmental environment for the widowed community to share their dating adventures. Her blog of the same name covers topics ranging from relationships with in-laws to dating while raising children and everything in between.

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