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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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year of Grief

The first New Year’s after a loved one dies, the future looks like a rocky coast.

There is no celebrating. No late night dancing. No sparklers or blowing of horns. Definitely no party.

We don’t know what to do or what direction to head. Because our loved one is not here, no matter what amazing things happened this year, like a job promotion or a new car, death deflates everything positive. We do not even look forward to what is coming because most of our dreams disappeared with the one who died.

On New Year’s Day we get a little distance from our grief, although it’s an artificial one, because now the death happened LAST year. And because it’s now in the past, this opens up a neutral space where we can think of something other than death for a moment.

Yet in the next breath, a new grief comes roaring in when we realize that we are being pulled on by the flowing of time, while our loved one is being pulled further away. 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.

Grief is a morose bear in purple that sits next to us on the couch and occasionally reaches over to claw us.

New Year’s Eve is the last in a daunting gauntlet of three holidays that are stacked back to back. First there was Thanksgiving, then Solstice/ Hanukkah/Christmas, and now New Year’s. Each of them ask us to be happy, grateful and to smile. This gauntlet comes in a year when we have had to endure other holidays, birthdays and anniversaries for the first time on our own.

Our fervent hope is that in twelve months, at next year’s New Year’s, we will feel like celebrating something, even if it’s small, even if it’s just that we have managed to survive a year without our loved one, although right now we may not see how we are going to be able to do this.

(If you are invited to a party but decline, remember to thank the people who invited you. Tell them to keep asking you over because one day, when you are ready, you will accept. Tell them that it helps to know that people still want us around.)


If you are by yourself on New Year’s, I hope that you will feel the presence of others and know that you are not alone, even if you don’t know anyone else who is grieving. No matter where you live, there are people in the neighborhoods around you who are feeling exactly like you do. They are standing alone at empty windows and staring out, wishing that they had someone to talk to who understands.

In the coming days, make connections with others. On the Internet there are grief support groups with people who understand grief, people at places like Option B, Refuge in Grief, Soaring Spirits, What’s Your Grief, Open to Hope, the Manifest Station, and Modern Loss. There you can share your struggles and hear encouragement.

There are also support groups in your community that are often organized around the kind of loss, such as a spouse, parent, sibling, or stillborn child. Some are organized by the cause of death, whether it’s cancer, heart attack, or suicide. It’s heartening to find how much strength and encouragement there is by sharing with others who are also struggling through grief.

On New Year’s Eve, I will light a candle for you.


  1. Thank you for this, Mark. Your readers are also welcome to join our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups, now in our 14th year, at http://j.mp/1lJJzqL

    1. I'm happy to share the information, Marty!