The words ‘Happy New Year’ can feel like thorns in your side when you are grieving. The evening itself may have been desperately difficult with all the jollities going on around you. You may have felt an expectation to have fun while those around you were heralding in the New Year with joy and all those hopes for the future. If you are feeling you don’t have a future after the death of your loved one and are struggling to get through each day with your grief, then no doubt it was and is particularly painful.
If the death of your loved one occurred near to Christmas, then the whole festive period can be a torture, and in some ways, always will be extra-ordinarily difficult. I think it is something about the clash of a happy time with a sad time. In early grief, and by that I mean the first year or two (not just the first three months) Christmas is usually anticipated with a feeling of dread. In a year like this one when the dates fell against weekends, and the whole period got extended over days that feeling of dread can be exacerbated. It is then quickly followed by the nation’s jubilation at the approaching New Year. It is a double whammy really.
Grief often feels colourless and empty, and there is nothing colourless about New Year for the majority. Think of parties, fireworks, party dresses, sparkle, abundance of food and drink. The misfit of how you feel with how everyone else is feeling at this time of year is jarring and can put a spotlight on the loss of your loved one. You might be remembering what you did as a family last year, or things you had planned for this year and it magnifies your grief in a very real and raw way.
What do the words New Year mean when you are grieving?
365 days without her, 365 days to get through till this time next year? It means a lot of time without the person you want back. I imagine that thoughts might go through your head like, I don’t want to have to face this year, I cannot leave him behind, this feels like I have to move forward without him
. A new year can feel like a new book but one you really don’t want to read and also one that you really don’t want other people to finish because your beloved got left behind in the first chapter.
You might be worrying about people’s expectations of you, that you should somehow be getting over your grief now or leaving it behind in that terrible year just gone, but of course, grief doesn’t work like that. You bring your grief with you, things don’t change so radically from December 31st to January 1st, nor should they. Grief accompanies you into the New Year and though it can be gut wrenchingly painful, I am sure you would not want to leave it behind because grief is the tie that binds you to your loved one and is an expression of your love and everything you had together.
As a therapist what I can say is that I know that a New Year offers the chance for some things to change slowly and incrementally. You might find you have more good days than bad, you might be able to cope a little better sometimes, you might get back to work or decide to change your job, you might laugh a little bit more or find enjoyment in small things. Whatever changes the New Year heralds, none of these mean you don’t still miss your beloved with every fibre of your body.
So try to remember that New Years day is just a day that follows the one before it. It does not have to be laden with meaning, it does not require resolutions or commitments. It just requires you to be present to your grief, to put one foot in front of the other and to look after yourself the best way you can and find ways of coping which support yourself.
If you have found someting that helps as the New Year begins, please share below.
If you are facing the New Year with grief and would like some counselling support, do call me
Photo credit: Nanagyei via Foter.com / CC BY