Endings Need Time to Be Honored: Welcoming the New Year While Grieving Loss

Dedicated to anyone who is grieving during this transition into the new year.

A sunset is an ending.

I spent Christmas at a deserted beach in southern Mexico.

I made it a point to watch the sunset both nights I was there. I got lucky, as these were two of the most epic displays I had ever seen. This says a lot, considering I have spent a fair amount of my life so far (on beaches), watching sunsets.

On the ride back up to my mountain home in Chiapas, Mexico, I began to think about all of the unremarkable sunsets I had selected to miss. Or, I also thought about when I had been so distracted by other things in life, that watching a sunset was not a priority.

People make a big deal about photographing, in memoriam, the perfect ending to a day, while so many other sunsets are passed over, dismissed, and unnoticed. They go unnoticed because it wouldn’t have been worth it to watch the sun set, in the face of the other things we need to be paying attention to.

Think about it: we all want to watch a sunset when the weather is nice, and we are in the right location. If it is pleasant and relaxing, and serves a purpose for entertainment, we will stop what we are doing, slow down, and observe this ending to a day.

Most days, many of us rush towards bed time.

We get to bed, and if we are lucky, fall immediately to sleep, and stay asleep.

Before we know it, our alarm goes off (several times), we wake up, the clock starts for the following day, we get up, and go about life, only to rush towards the end of the day, all over again.

When dealing with endings, we are somehow fickle about what to focus on, if it should be focused on, at all. We instead seem to put more emphasis on getting to beginnings, so we can check something else off a list, and get to the next best thing.

I think we tend to view New Years Eve this way, as well.

A new year.

Another new beginning, to start, quite literally, with a bang. An opportunity to gain traction and momentum in getting it (life) done.

A holiday, and a time of year, that on an emotional level is a way to somehow bypass the socio-cultural, economic, and existential vulnerabilities we all live with, that severely limit us.

New Years is a holiday that helps us all practice a sense of hope and joy, getting caught in the beauty of it all.

It is a holiday that allows us to at least for a short period, forget we are currently in the process of everything we hold dear, and are attached to, being torn from us, in either or both, a methodical and/or random fashion, whether abruptly, or, over time. We try to bypass the fact that we are all experiencing loss, all the time, in ways we mostly cannot control or understand.

My endings.

This year has been one of painful endings for me. In fact, the past two years have taught me a whole lot about loss and grief.

I used to be someone who could manically bypass these endings. I would only partly process them, distracting myself with the exhilaration of a new beginning. But, I suppose I have reached a threshold of loss, or perhaps a deeper maturity and awareness around my humanity, where this doesn’t work anymore.

There have been deaths. I have had my own major medical issues that could have resulted in death. I have had endings of friendships and romantic partnerships. I lost a pet. I have had serious financial losses, and been stolen from. I have lost many things I have worked hard for. There have been major shifts in the course of my life, and the dying off of old versions of my self, that had wanted other things than what it is I actually ended up choosing.

I have also watched those I am close to go through many, gut-wrenching losses, and have stood by, impotent about how to support them.

I can no longer disregard these endings, or focus on a beginning instead, as they hang around like ghosts crowding the interior recesses of my chest.

They don’t actually leave until I reckon with them.

I am still grappling with how to hold the ways life has stolen all illusion of control, from me. I sit here stripped bare, raw, and very aware of my existential vulnerability, while life also goes on.

A new year in the face of endings.

I don’t feel necessarily festive about watching fireworks tonight, which is the man-made version of an epic sunset, to end this day. Nor do I feel excited about New Years resolutions, or getting my life on track again, where I pick myself up, dust myself off, and not let these losses get me down. I don’t want to set out into the New Year on a mission to have it all, while forgetting about whatever losses temporarily threw me off course.

My life IS my track. There is only ONE course!

I accept this as where I am at right now. I have space for honoring the grief. I have mustered acceptance and peace with what is, while feeling the desire, hope, and celebration of marking a new beginning. I don’t feel exuberant, but I do feel welcoming for the year to come.

My welcoming of 2020, is held with an honoring of the endings and losses of 2019.

The resolutions that honor my grief.

I will continue to have hopes and dreams for 2020, and do my best to determine the path my life goes. And, I will also honor that I don’t have complete control, and anything and everything ends, usually without my full consent to it ending.

I will continue to lovingly hold the parts of me that are angry, sad, and in disbelief, about what was painfully wrenched from mine, and other people’s grip, in 2019.

I will more deeply live in to 2020 with the embodied knowledge that it takes time to heal from loss, and that is ok. I will experience many new beginnings while also being connected to my losses.

I am living in 2020, and very much also living in 2019, 2015, and even 1990.

That is the nature of healing from loss, and that is ok.

Coach. Psychologist. Writing about new perspectives, love, relationships, Narcissism, healing, transformation, & culture. www.avapommerenkphd.com

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