The first New Year’s after a loved one dies, the future looks like a lonely, rocky coast. There is no celebrating. No late night dancing. No sparklers or blowing of horns. No party.
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 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 has widened, and it feels like we are losing what little contact we have left.
On New Year’s Day, 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 Eve, we will feel like celebrating something, 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 accomplish this, and part of us doesn’t want to.
If you are by yourself as the new year starts, 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 dealing with loss. 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. In your community there are support groups that are often organized around the kind of loss, whether it’s 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 we feel by sharing with others who are also struggling through our kind of loss.
There are also grief support groups on the Internet with people who understand grief, people at places like Soaring Spirits, Modern Loss, What’s Your Grief, the Manifest Station, Refuge in Grief, Good Men Project, Option B, and Open to Hope. There you can share your struggles and hear encouragement from others.
The New Year is a turning away from what has happened. It’s also a turning to.