Updated: Jan 26
The New Year represents hope, new beginnings, and change. I think that's why it hurts a grieving mother's heart so much. When you've lost a child celebrations can feel all wrong. Holidays like the New Year are meant to be celebrated with friends and family, but there is a gaping hole in your family. Who can possibly think of celebrating when your child is missing?
Major holidays like this also mark the passing of time.
You may feel more alone at this time of year as you watch those around you celebrate, have fun, and make exciting resolutions for change in the coming year; people exclaiming they are ready to live happier lives! Yet, here we are: another year without our children.
The first New Year without my daughter Katie was a complete train wreck. First of all, it was less than one month after her car accident on December 8 and I was completely unprepared. I had put all my efforts into surviving Christmas, so I barely gave New Years a thought. My husband, son, and I went away for Christmas that first year, just weeks after losing our girl. It was as 'ok' as it could be. We spent five days with my brother skiing and snowboarding in BC, Canada. We were distracted and I was so glad not to be at home.
Then New Years arrived, blind-sided me, and took me out at the knees.
We arrived home to an empty house, full of dead flowers. Katie's urn sat on a table visible from the front door and the Christmas tree sat unlit and solemn in the corner. The silence was palpable. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.
Before the bags were unpacked, I took the tree down that had been put up days before Katie died. I'm sure I broke half the ornaments as I savagely pulled and shoved and threw them into bags and containers. I screamed and I cried. The Christmas tree came down in thunderous record time and was shoved into the deep recesses of the storage room. Then I slumped to the ground. Numb and dumbstruck that this was not a bad dream, but a reality that I would be living for the rest of my life.
That New Year was a blur. I think my husband and I sat opposite each other in our living room and stared blankly between tears as the clock struck twelve and the rest of the world celebrated.
If you are feeling this way, let me share some the New Year's resolutions I've made since my daughter died.
1. Resolve to just be. Let go of the idea that your grief 'should be' this way or that way. Let go of what society thinks your grief should look like after losing your child. Allow yourself to be however you need to be. If you need to take mental health days from work or life, that's ok. If you need to be in your pyjamas all day, that's ok. Remove all expectations of yourself and allow yourself to grieve in a way that feels right to you. What you are feeling is normal. You have been through the worst that life can throw at a person.
2. Resolve to take care of yourself instead of worrying about everyone around you. As moms we are experts on putting ourselves last. After the death of a child, self-care is a non-negotiable. Simply put - you must take care of you right now. Drink water, lots of water. Avoid alcohol, because that is a slippery slope. Eat nourishing foods, even if it's a nibble here and a nibble there. Get outside at least once a day, even if you step outside the back door to look up at the sky. And if at all possible, do your best to go for a walk, even if it's around the block at a time when no one will see you.
3. Resolve to meditate. You might roll your eyes at this one, but have you tried to do this? Honestly, it's just sitting quietly and thinking about your breathing. I have turned to this more and more on my grief journey and have integrated this practice into my daily life. Anxiety attacks still plague me at times and this is one of the best ways for me to cope when things get really bad. When I'm a better place, it also allows me to connect with my daughter's spirit.
4. Resolve to bring aspects of your child forward with you. Know that your child will always be with you and that you can honour their life by doing things that they loved to do and care about the things and the people that they cared about. For the better part of two year I had coffee with Katie. Each morning I would sit with her picture and her urn and talk to my girl. You can also do projects in their honour, like have a bench placed in a special spot.
5. Resolve to make meaning of your new life, instead of focusing on finding meaning. Honour your child and their memory by living a meaningful life. Katie had a zest for life that I have not seen in many people. I want to live like she did, so this year, I resolve to do just that.
Be gentle with yourself and know that you are not alone on this path.
Live in the light of their life, not the darkness of their death.
Walking beside you,
If you are struggling with the loss of a child and don't know where to begin, you will find my 5-part video series "Living with Child Loss" a helpful place to start. You can learn more HERE.