New Years Eve and New Years Day is a loaded and complex time for a lot of people; and most likely especially for anyone who is grieving or going through a significant loss of any kind.
The main word that comes to mind for me when I think about New Years Eve/Day is this: PRESSURE!
There is so much pressure surrounding the New Year. First, there is the pressure of New Years Eve. Where will you be going? Are you invited anywhere? How are you ringing in the new year? Is it okay to just stay home and do nothing at all, without feeling like an absolute loser or like some sort of weirdo for not wanting to or having the energy to go out to some huge New Years Eve bash? At midnight, will you kiss someone? Will you be around loved ones? If you are alone, the pressure and expectations make you feel really bad for being alone. There is just so much pressure about what everyone is doing or not doing on New Years Eve.
New Years Day is a whole other kind of pressure. The expectations of having “resolutions”, starting anew, being a better person, losing weight, finally appreciating what you have, living for today, being better with money and finances, getting out of debt, blah blah blah-ba-dee-friggin-blah. Most of us find ourselves just seconds into the brand new calendar year before we are are attacked with questions and expectations about how we will BE BETTER this year. HOW will you do it? And then when most of us don’t live up to our own high expectations or society’s expectations, we beat ourselves up and feel like failures for not meeting some made-up measurement of BETTER that was forced upon us in the first place.
I have fallen into this trap throughout the years. As a teenager, we had a group of friends who would all go into Boston for First Night and be part of the craziness of watching the ball drop. I was 16, 17, 18 years old. It was a blast. Then I went to college in NYC, and my first year there, I went into Times Square on New Years Eve with a few college friends to be part of that madness. It was less fun and way more chaotic than Boston, and it was incredibly stressful. Jut trying to navigate the freezing cold temps, going to the bathroom without losing your place of standing inside the grids of ridiculousness where the action was, and hundreds of thousands of very drunk people, shoulder to shoulder; angry, tired, hungry, and who all have to pee. Not fun.
After college, NYE became this pressure of making sure you had something cool to do, somewhere to be. Except I rarely ever did. Most times we would end up with a small group of us staying in and ordering chinese food and watching movies and the Dick Clark Rockin’ Eve countdown. In his older years, even Dick Clark seemed like he no longer wanted to be there in Times Square, and like he was only till doing it because its what everyone expected of him, and he felt PRESSURED. I remember watching him in the years after he had a stroke, and feeling badly for him that he was still being pushed out there to give that countdown. I always thought to myself: please let that poor man go home and get some rest this year.
And that is the same thing I wish for all of you reading this. Because if you re reading this, you are probably grieving someone, or know someone close in your life who is grieving someone. Grief is hard, and extremely exhausting. So this New Years, I hope you got a chance to just chill out, rest, do nothing, reflect, not reflect, or just stare at the damn walls because you can. And I hope nobody made you feel badly about that. And I hope that today, on New Years Day and the first day of 2023, that you realize its just another year on the calendar, and there should not be any huge expectations for you to somehow instantly work on being better. If 2022 was insanely hard for you and you got through it somehow, THAT IS AMAZING. Take that in. Stop and take that in for awhile. If you are in deep grief over the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, it might be two or three or five years before you feel like “doing anything” on New Years again. Maybe you never will. It’s okay. It’s all okay.
My first New Years Eve after the sudden death of Don Shepherd, I literally RAN out of a house party that me and my parents were invited to. When the countdown started with good ole’ Dick Clark, and people were inside the dining room enjoying cornish hens and merriness, I went into a panic attack at the idea that 2011 was the last year Don would ever know. I couldn’t handle that in my soul, and I panicked and couldn’t breathe. I ran out to my parents car, sobbed my head off, and informed them that we needed to leave the party immediately. I wanted no part to any countdown into any new years that my husband wouldn’t be part of.
The next year or two after that, I did not celebrate New Years Eve. I continued to ignore it. I pretended it didnt exist. It was not something I could emotionally handle. I never forced myself, even though friends and family didnt really get it, and probably thought I was losing my sanity at the time. And I was, to be truthful.
Slowly, at a snail’s pace, over the next few years, parts of me began to want to celebrate life again. In 2017, about 6 and a half years after Don’s death, and after many attempts at dating, I met my next great love. That New Years Eve, I felt like going to a fun NYE party where you have a nice dinner and dress up and dance and wear party hats and all of that. So me and Nick found one locally, and we went. It was such a blast, because I was ready, and because nobody pressured me into it, and because I wanted to do it. And then, apparently we liked the idea of having an epic NYE so much, we decided to get married in a pandemic wedding ceremony on NYE 2020, with no guests, and over 400 guests live on Facebook. Since then, we have gone back to where we married each year and had dinner at the restaurant that is attached to the Inn where we had our ceremony. Over the years, I went from hiding under my covers crying on NYE, to partying it up, to getting re-married; something I NEVER in a million years thought I would be doing.
Love is stronger than death. YOU will keep getting stronger as you continue to navigate this grief world. This tsunami that crashed into you, uninvited. This year, if you need to or even if you just feel like it, make it your resolution to say “screw the resolutions!”, and instead, offer yourself all the time you need to experience some good old-fashioned peace. Quiet the mind. Silence the soul. Rest your weary self, and take a break from all of the madness and sorrow and horrific pain you have had to encounter since your life was turned inside out. Give it a try. Take as long as you need. No pressure.
The world can wait, as you sit and marinate in the blissful calm of nothingness.
Peaceful New Year, my friends.