Are you reading this in Spring, with bright splashes of yellow and purple appearing in the green? Autumn? The leaves are turning scarlet and beige, wrinkling up and getting ready to let go of their twigs. Or maybe Winter, when the nights are getting longer, and we walk out into sparkly mornings with white clouds of breath. As the year turns, we are reminded of nature’s endless ebb and flow.
You might be looking back to the year behind you (and marvelling at how quickly it’s gone), or starting to think about the fresh page of the year ahead. As human beings, we are always surrounded by endings and beginnings. These might be small, when one term ends and another school holiday begins, or they might involve larger losses, such as a friend moving away or someone close to us dying.
Mostly, we handle these endings and beginnings as a normal part of our lives. We feel sad, we share our feelings with our friends, we have good days and bad days, we gradually feel better, and life goes on.
Sometimes, endings hit us particularly hard. This might be because what we lost was a hugely important part of our lives or our identities (e.g. losing a job that has given our life meaning). This also happens when we’ve had lots of losses in a short period of time, or if things have been generally more difficult and we’re more vulnerable than usual.
If you’ve been bereaved, or if you’re struggling to accept the ending of anything else important in your life, these tips will help you to heal.
- Acknowledge and accept all your feelings. This is something most of us are terrible at. If you’re feeling sad (or angry, or numb), then that’s what you’re feeling. It doesn’t make any difference if you ‘should have got over it by now’. Grieving has its own timescales, and these can be longer than we might like.
- Be kind to yourself. We can be critical of ourselves when we’re feeling vulnerable. Try to treat yourself as you would your best friend. Notice when you’re telling yourself off. Be patient with yourself. Take one day at a time. Be encouraging.
- Seek support. This is something else most of us aren’t very good at, especially if we’re usually the ‘coping type’. Let your friends and family know that you’re struggling, and ask for practical help if you need it.
- Write a journal. This will give you a reliable place to explore your thoughts and feelings, and you won’t have to worry about it getting bored or overwhelmed with you. Writing things down can be more powerful than thinking them over and over.
- Seek professional support if you need it. Go and see your G.P., or seek some counselling or psychotherapy. Get in touch with Cruse for a bereavement, or Relate for the ending of a relationship.
- Have faith. Things will get better in time, even if it feels like it’s going on forever. Recognise and celebrate small improvements in your mood. If you’re all out of faith, then you can borrow some of mine for the time being.
If we can allow space for our feelings about endings, then we are more likely to welcome new beginnings into our lives. Losing our job might lead us to an opportunity to do something completely different, and when our favourite rose bush dies we’ll finally have the space to plant that apple tree.
Like plants that take a long time to put down roots before they venture upwards, it can be a while before the new shoots appear. Keep watering your seed, even if you’ve given up hope of anything new appearing. One of these days, the very tip of a small bright green leaf will emerge from the earth…