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Many grievers exhale following the fall and early winter holidays, only to find that New Year’s celebrations and other special days in January, February and March can be a heavy lift, no matter what your loss experience, culture, or age.
The research discussed in the first of the holiday grief series, suggests the start of a new year can be a difficult time for grievers. They often think they have gotten through the worst of their grief as December closes. As a grief counselor and grief support group facilitator, I have heard bereaved people talk about the close of the old year, the beginning of a new year, and the complex web of feelings these bring.
Did You Know We Mark The New Year At Different Times?
January 1 – Julian Calendar
January 7, 2023 -Mayahana New Year
Theravada New Year – April 6, 2023 in the Buddhist Tradition
Lunar New Year – January 22, 2023
Indian New Year (uses both lunar and solar calendars) – March 22 in some regions and starts later in other regions
Whenever they mark in the “New Year”, grievers report feelings of sadness and renewed loss at the passing of the year. The prospect of a “new” year without their loved one can bring up renewed feelings of loss. Some say they want to kiss the difficult “old year” goodbye but have difficulty embracing a “new year.” There are millions of people across the globe grieving losses. While no two people’s grief and loss experience are exactly alike, grief is universal, and holidays and other special days can harbor upsurges of grief.
The month of February brings many grievers face to face with Valentine’s Day. The history of Valentine’s Day is multifaceted, having been traced back to two different third century Christian martyrs named Valentine, both of whom eventually were canonized as “saints.” It has also been suggested that the roots of Valentine’s Day are tied to a pre-Christian Roman holiday known as Lupercalia. Additionally, a 14th century poem by Jeffrey Chaucer tagged February 14 as the day birds choose their mates. This reportedly led the English society to take on the notion of choosing a partner on February 14. Eventually, what may have started as a Christian religious holiday became a secular, “Hallmark” occasion celebrated in many parts of the world.
Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day and its accompanying images of sweet cherubs, hearts, candy, and flowers can be especially difficult following the loss of a loved one. And although the day on the calendar has passed, the emotions and grief of the day still deserve attention. Navigating February after a loss presents plenty of challenges, but also opportunities to recognize that love is both transcendent and transformational.
According to Vedic tradition which informs modern day yoga, the chakras are energy centers that run through the body. The heart chakra is affected by grief and loss. Consider the proverbial “broken heart.” Taking special care of your own heart, both literally and figuratively, is important for people who are grieving. Grief can affect the immune system, the cardiovascular system, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.
As we move into March, those who practice Islam across the globe will be joining family and community to honor Ramadan which begins on March 22 this year. Zimarina Sarwar, a UK writer and editor, discusses life, death, and grief with the reminder, “for the grieving person, Ramadan allows the pain of loss to meet with heightened spiritual introspection, culminating in a bittersweet experience.” Read more at Healing and Experiencing Grief During Ramadan .For Ahmed Rehab, USA Today opinion writer, Ramadan is a “spiritual workout” while grieving and honoring the loss of his father.
Whatever your cultural or faith tradition, healing a broken heart involves intention, attention, and support. Some find metaphors along the way, like Zoe’s hearts, to honor both pain and love. Some turn to their faith tradition for community and support. As you navigate the holidays and special days this year, may you find some helpful hints to support you. May the concepts of love, healing, and mending a broken heart be your companions and bring you comfort.