The Psychosocial: Grief Part 3

Marking Time And Facing A New Year

Happy New Year! 2019 is here and I have never been so happy and terrified to start a new year.

As I scrolled through my friend’s #bestnine and reflections on 2018 I noticed the trend of embracing the negative aspects of the past year and turning them into opportunities for personal growth and development. I desperately wanted to feel that way too but my calendar and internal reset button now works in mysterious ways. I am on grief time. Grief time is this distorted way of counting the days based on getting through various milestones – it is a weird way to mark time and see the future, because the future can often look very bleak when we think about spending a day, a month, the next year, the next decade or a lifetime without the person we love.

I had moments of relief and even excitement thinking about the end of 2018. Could it be the promise of a new beginning that maybe doesn’t encompass feeling so sad and lonely?

And then I woke up on January 1st and the first thought I had was that it was the first of the month. Which meant it had been seven months since M died. 28 weeks, 840 days, 20,160 hours. I thought about the fact that my birthday was coming in a few weeks which would mark the first birthday without her. And then I felt that tugging in my stomach and a lump in my throat, and I cried.

When we are grieving, it is hard enough to live each day as it comes. It can be daunting to face a whole new year stretching out in front of us. All of the sudden I was afraid of what the new year might bring or not (what if it didn’t hold anything different for me?). I was worried whether or not I could handle any more challenges and whether I could let go of the past. The past is where I am comfortable, where I feel safe. Moving into the new year would require the courage to once again work with my grief in order to look to this new year with wonder and enthusiasm.

Last year I read an article in the New York Times on grief and a quote from a bereaved mother in reference to the book Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuel, stuck with me: “You never get over it, you get on with it, and you never move on, but you move forward.” The new year did not mean a new me or a new outlook on the world. It didn’t signal the end of my heartache or the need to replay the past in my mind over again. Instead, it’s an indicator that life moves forward, and so do I. Although 2018 will forever be the year I lost my best friend, 2019 is already enriched by my love for her and also a deeper compassion for all who look at the future with trepidation.

To read part one of Shawna’s grief series, click here.

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