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GriefSpeak – Auld Lang Syne

By: Mari Dias

Hindsight is 20/20. And so is this new year. It is not merely a new year but a new decade, and if social media is any indication people have varying views on this calendar transition. The posts often begin with hindsight, looking back at the graduations, weddings, births, travels and deaths, and morph into a hopefulness for  the future.

“Boy, oh boy 2019 kicked me and knocked me down. Hope 2020 treats me better!” (anonymous Facebook user).

“It has been an awesome year! Actually, an awesome decade! Hope 2020 is equally as awesome!”(anonymous Facebook user).

The memes and giphys reflect empowering, proactive suggestions: “This is a new chapter. Write a good one.” When we open a Facebook  post or an Instagram picture, we are likely to see fireworks, people celebrating with paper hats and oversized 2020 eyeglasses, kissing the moment the ball drops. Videos show crowds of people singing Auld Lang Syne. (A song whose history indicates that it’s usually sung on new year’s and funerals (Scotland.org).

For many, it’s a birth of sorts. A new beginning. But not for all. Not for the grievers. It may signify the end of something, even if has been 10 years. Be sensitive. Be kind.

According to the Association of Death Education and Counseling, “People don’t often think of New Year’s as a grief holiday; however, for many, it is the first of  a new year in which their loved one does not physically exist…the first true year they [do] not share in together. It is a genuine challenge. Resolve to be gentle with one another.”

VITAS Healthcare concurs. “When we are grieving it is hard enough to live each day as it comes. It can be a daunting task to face a whole new year stretching out in front of us.” VITAS goes on to express the potential feelings of the grieving, as they may feel afraid, lost and no longer busy with caretaking. They proffer the idea that a new year may mean different things to different grievers. Some may welcome, some may dread, and some may ignore the new year, depending on where they are in the grief process. “The question is not whether, but how we’ll work with it.”

VITAS Healthcare concludes their article with tips to face the new year.

  1. Get needed rest. Grieving is exhausting.
  2. Give yourself a mental rest. Soothe yourself with music, prayer, tears, and laughter.
  3. Pay attention to hopes and desires.
  4. Attend a support group and share memories.
  5. Seek spiritual support
  6. Find courage to live into the future by living in the present, one day at a time. ( https://www.vitas.com/family-and-caregiver-support/grief-and-bereavement/holidays-and-grief/facing-the-new-year-when-you-are-bereaved/ )

For those of you who make resolutions, resolve to be kind to those, including yourselves, who are grieving the loss of someone or something very special.

“Should old acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintances be forgot

And auld lang syne ( for old times’ sake)”

(Robert Burns, 1759-1796)

No. They should always be remembered and celebrated. I leave you, not with the traditional “Happy” New Year but rather wishing you a Grateful, Graceful, Hopeful and Peaceful one.

Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to:  http://gracepointegrief.com/

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