Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year of Grief



My essay "Grief Walkers," on the need for kindness when people are grieving, was published today at Manifest Station. It mentions Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "Kindness."

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On the first New Year’s Eve after the death of a loved one, grief is a morose bear in purple that sits next to us on the couch and occasionally reaches over to claw us.

There is no late night dancing. No twirling of sparklers. No blowing of horns.

Because our loved one is not here to celebrate with us, no matter what amazing things happened this year, like job promotions or winning the lottery, death deflates everything that was positive. We do not even look forward to what is coming in the new year because most of the dreams that fueled our excitement disappeared with the one who died.

On New Year’s Day we will get a little distance from our grief, although it’s an artificial one, because the death happened LAST year. It creates a neutral space where we can think of something other than death for a moment.

But in the next breath, a new grief comes roaring in when we realize that we are being pulled on by the events of time, while our loved ones are being pulled further away, into the past. After trying all year to keep them close, the gap between us is widening and it feels like we are losing what little contact we have left with them.

New Year’s Eve is the last in a daunting gauntlet of three holidays squished together, along with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Soltice/Christmas, and all of them coming in a year when we had to endure other holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries for the first time on our own.

We hope that in twelve months, during next year’s New Year’s celebration, we will feel like celebrating something, even if it’s small, even if it’s just managing to survive a year without our loved one, even though we don’t see how this will be possible.

(If you were invited to a party tonight but declined, remember to thank the people who invited you, and tell them to keep asking you over because one day, when you are ready, you will accept. It helps to know that people still want us around.)

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If you are alone tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope you will feel the presence of others and know that you are not alone in what you’re feeling, even if you don’t specifically know anyone else who is grieving. No matter where you live, there are dozens of people in the neighborhoods around you who are feeling like you do, who are standing alone at empty windows and staring into the dark, wishing that they had someone to talk to who understood.

In the coming days, make connections with others. Find support groups in your community where you can share your stories of grief. Often these groups are organized around a specific kind of loss, such as a spouse, parent, sibling, or stillborn child, or by the cause of death, whether it’s cancer, heart attack, or suicide. It’s amazing how much strength and encouragement can be found simply sharing with others who are also going through grief.

In addition, there are grief support groups on the Internet, with people who get grief, people who are at places like Refuge in Grief, Soaring Spirits, What’s Your Grief, Open to Hope, the Manifest Station, and Modern Loss.

Tonight I will light a candle for you.


2 comments:

  1. I lost my wife two years ago to cancer. I visit your website several times a week. For me, your site is a kind of alternative to a grief group because what you write makes me feel that I am not the only man going through this dark experience. Your posts articulate what I always feel and fail to express. I sincerely thank you for writing this blog. Please keep writing for many widowers like me out there.

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    1. Thank you, Sunny, for your comments. This is the main reason why I write this blog. When I was first grieving, I could not find any resources to help me understand what I was going through, and I resolved to share what I had learned, and continue to learn, with others.

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