New Year, New Life


Every New Journey Begins with a Good-bye. Conversely, Every Ending is Also a New Beginning.

New Year, New Life

Many people do not think of New Years Day as a grief holiday, but for those who are grieving, January 1st is not an easy day.

Every New Journey Begins with a Good-bye. Conversely, Every Ending is Also a New Beginning.

The beginning of a new year is traditionally seen as a time to look forward and make fresh or renewed starts and efforts. The ending of the previous year tends to be a time to look back and review the year gone by.

For those experiencing a very recent significant loss, it can be very hard to look forward to a new year and a new beginning, and as a person struggling with acute grief, it’s a time to be gentle and patient with yourself. Your heart needs time to heal in order to function “well enough” to consider re-constructing your life without the physical presence of your loved one who has died.

For those who might be a bit further along in their grief healing, it can be an ideal time to tap into the energy of promising beginnings that a new year might offer.

Nathan Kollar said, “Suffering breaks our world. Like a tree struck by lightning – splintered, shaken, denuded – our world is broken by suffering, and we will never be the same again.”

The initial surge of grief can indeed be remarkably disabling, and it’s normal to feel lost, confused and disoriented as one grasps the full impact, loss and change that’s been forced on him/her. The world has changed, our life needs and identity are being re-constructed incorporating the physical absence of the loved one, and these changes can be overwhelmingly daunting. Initially, the the one left grieving is in no state of mind to create a new normal whatever that may be or mean. However, as time passes, the bereaved comes to be up to that task in intermittent periods between waves of grief.

As the old year fades and you’ve survived the holiday season, in your periods of relative calm it’s a great time to challenge yourself gently and patiently in the task of re-building your life not unlike the butterfly working its way out of the cocoon after a period of lonely silence and isolation. The challenges of the initial grief surge, and having cared for your dying loved one, leaves you a changed person with new experiences and possibly more compassion for others experiencing grief and loss. Maybe this will be the first time you’ve had a chance to consider your own needs, wants and likes as you re-build a new sense of self and purpose that is whole and meaningful to you. Look through the newspapers, community postings, or other resources to see what appeals to you in terms of what to do with your free time. Consider doing things that you might not have had an opportunity to do before – try things out.

Your grief and the loss of your loved one may well have thrown you into crisis mode as you struggled to simply survive the pain, but the good thing about crisis, is that it’s the only time we really open ourselves to grow in new ways. As perhaps you start to build your new “normal” you will discover new things about yourself; your tastes, priorities, strengths and preferences that you have not had a chance to reflect upon in a very long while.

This change, this “new normal” is not something you chose or wanted, and you have every right to resent that it’s been forced on you. Cry, kick, claw at it if it helps, but in the end, reality has a way of reasserting itself over and over until we accept it and while it’ll never be something you wanted, you might be surprised to find opportunities for meaningful growth that emerge from the rubble of your old life or normal.

Written by Rev. David Behling, Spiritual Advisor and Bereavement Counselor for Northwest Michigan Hospice Assist.