By Toni L. Eaton, RN, BSN, MS

President & CEO of Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care

Walk more. Spend more time at the gym. Learn a new language. Nurture a new passion. Visit friends more often. New Year’s resolutions come with good intentions and, on the whole, remind and encourage us to make the most of the future.

But for those many of us who have experienced loss during the last year, New Year’s celebrations can be painful, and New Year’s promises can ring hollow. Who really cares if you eat more vegetables or hit 10,000 steps, especially in the face of the empty emotional space sometimes left behind when someone close leaves us?

Making plans for a new calendar year or having and holding onto hopes and dreams from earlier days may not feel quite right. At this time, the grief you experience may feel even heavier than it has in days past, as this may be the first time these plans will not include the person who has died. Loved ones are still thought of, yes, but they are no longer part of your present or future, and this can be difficult to embrace. Our grief changes us, and changes who we are today and who we are able to be in the future.

You should know, that while everyone experiences grief in their own way, you are not alone. Many of us are grieving alongside you. A recent study by Amerispeak and WebMD found that more than half of Americans are grieving the loss of someone close to them during the last three years.

Not to take away from the New Year’s celebrations, and indeed you may enjoy joining in on some of them, but you may also want to take some time and consider a different set of resolutions, especially in the first year after you have lost a loved one.

Here are a few to start you off:

• Resolve not to put a time limit on grief. It will take its time and take as long as it takes.

• Resolve to be aware that grief will take its own shape, and while there are often commonalities, grief and mourning are unique to each person.

• Resolve to be kind and mindful that dealing with grief requires flexibility, and expectations may need to be adjusted for yourself and others.

• Resolve to give yourself grace and not be harsh on yourself for not being as productive as you might like, or for behaving in a way that might be uncharacteristic. Extend that same grace to others.

• Resolve to be aware that others may not understand your pain, and that it is not realistic to expect that of them.

• Resolve to embrace memories of your loved one into your life in as many or as few ways as feels comfortable.

• Resolve to explore and reach out for help if you feel you may need it.

• Resolve to be open to healing when it comes and grateful for the love and concern of others.

Whether or not you are one to make resolutions, it is our hope that one or more of these thoughts will resonate with you. As you turn the page to begin a new year, remember to be kind and gentle with yourself as you move forward in your season of grief.

Toni L. Eaton, RN, BSN, MS, is the President & CEO of Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care of West Bridgewater, a dynamic non-profit hospice serving more than 55 communities south of Boston. OCH also runs the Dr. Ruth McLain Hospice Home in Braintree. A native and resident of the South Shore, Toni brings her compassion and experience as a nurse, veteran, and community leader to her insightful columns for South Shore Senior News. She is also the founder of Sunny Paws Dog Rescue. Several groups have honored her leadership, including the South Shore Women’s Business Network. She currently sits on the board of the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts. For more information, call (781) 341-4145 or visit Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care at