For the vast majority of humans, the coming of the New Year is a time for reflection, celebration and forward planning. It begins with much fanfare and tremendous energy, right on the heels of Christmas and it’s full of hope. Those of us who are grieving, might not feel so much like celebrating, planning or have the energy, depending on where we are in our grief.
Admittedly, I enjoy New Year’s celebrations and am planning to have a few friends over for some fun and laughter this year. It’s been 9 years since my son, Jacob, died. Over time I have gained energy and learned it is okay for me to have fun and not feel guilty. Now, don’t get me wrong. My heart still pangs with longing and I am very aware that it is another year without Jacob. How I miss him still.
But what of the new moms and dads who are facing the turning of the year for the first, second, or third time without their child? I remember those years were tough. The hardest part was that the New Year brought so much hope for new beginnings and new adventures, at the same as a reminder that Jacob would not be doing anything new again, ever.
I recall as the clock struck midnight that first New Year’s: Glasses clinked, the first sips of champagne were taken, and I fell apart. I was a sudden sobbing mess in the middle of the dance floor, amongst my closest friends, who held me close and understood. We soon made our departure for home.
What can I offer newly grieving that could help them navigate this time of year? Nothing really. Nothing will take away the pain, longing or sadness, but perhaps I share some strategies to get through the events.
The usual “rules” apply to New Year’s events:
- Be with those who understand and can accept you, come what may.
- Have an escape route. Let the host know you may leave, if you find you’re not feeling so great.
- Have a safe place or person at the event. Knowing you have somewhere you can be with your thoughts or with someone who understands can make things more bearable.
- Say, “no” if you don’t feel up to it, even if it’s last minute. You know you best. If you’re not up for it, you’re not up for it.
- Turn off the lights, lock the door, and ignore it. Who says you have to celebrate? It’s coming anyway.
Whether or not you decide to join in the festivities, you may feel drawn to think about the year ahead may hold for you. As a grieving parent, that may feel like a punch in the stomach. It buckles you over in pain to think about moving forward, and to our hearts, we’re moving farther away from our child’s existence. Ouch! But healing also lies in the future, and exists in this moment too.
So what to do when the whole world seems to be occupied with the future and you’re longing for the past? Do you half-heartedly join in? Do you say, “No thank you, not me”?
I struggle to answer. On the one hand, you are where you are. Honor that – always. However, grief will continue for as long as you live and love your child and you will not always be where you are today. Change is one of the few things guaranteed in life. This is a blessing and a curse.
Looking back I know that in among the seemingly continual painful moments of my first year as a grieving mom, there were glimmers of joy, a laugh here or there, a flicker of peace where it didn’t hurt so much. Slowly over time, the sad times grew shorter and the happier ones grew longer. But both continue to exist.
Maybe some reflection and planning could be a good thing? Perhaps spending some time recording things you’re grateful for and finding the glimmers of joy among the sadness will lift your heart some as you head into the New Year. Perhaps taking the first step toward self-care, will help you begin to create the new you – the one who lives with loss.
You know you best. Do you need something to move you forward? Are you feeling stuck? Maybe there’s a New Year’s resolution that works for you, maybe not. Who says a resolution needs to be extreme? It can be as simple as allowing yourself some quiet, reflective time ten minutes a day. And who says it has to be at the start of the year? In any case, you can find some wonderful suggestions over at The Grief Toolbox and What’s Your Grief:
Whatever you choose to do, or not do, as the New Year invariably comes, I hope you find what you need to heal and that you have the chance to relish even a small glimmer of joy and hope.
If you find you need help in your grief, please visit our Community Resources page to find help that is available in Calgary, AB.
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