by Pam Leonard, LBSW, CDP
As the New Year approaches many of us find ourselves reflecting on the past year while also looking ahead with hope of the possibilities that lie ahead for the upcoming year. This time of year we are often asked by colleagues, family and friends about our New Year's resolutions…and we may find that this question is unusually hard to answer this year.
2020 has been an unprecedented year. Many of the foundations on which we have depended for our financial, physical and emotional health are the very things we have had to sacrifice. We were called together to help each other, then we were warned that it was not safe to do so in the traditional ways. This year we have collectively grieved the loss of time spent with one another, the loss of celebrating milestones, the loss of job opportunities and, most challenging, the loss of being able to mourn departed loved ones with the physical comfort of our family and friends. Our whole way of life has been altered because of the pandemic.
So perhaps the reason resolutions seem even harder this year is that we have to come to the harsh realization that the challenges brought on by the pandemic will not magically disappear at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. Despite the hope that comes with vaccines and new therapeutics, we still do not know when we will begin to reclaim some of what we have lost.
I believe we are all looking forward to the time we can experience renewal. In fact, if I could pick any word to live out in 2021, it would be “renewal.” The definition of renewal is: an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption. I also like to think of renewal being inextricably associated with hope. Hope is part of the grief process, as defined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her book On Death and Dying. Her famous Stages of Grief, that apply to all losses, not just the death of a loved one, are:
-Shock and/or Disbelief
-Acceptance and/or Hope
As we set out expectations for ourselves and make plans for the new year, it is helpful to realize where we are in the grief process. It is also important to care for and be patient with ourselves as we work through the stages of grief that will ultimately allow us to reach the stage of hope and renewal. Here are some ideas that may be helpful in your own journey toward hope and renewal:
1. Acknowledge any anger, fear, and/or sadness you may be experiencing.
2. Realize that your losses are unique to you and, therefore, your grieving will be unique.
3. Reach out to family and friends in ways that are safe through telephone, Zoom, or while wearing a mask and socially distanced.
4. Use the lessons you have learned in 2020 to help prioritize what is important to focus on entering the New Year.
5. Reassure yourself that the time will come when it will be safe to hug and visit loved ones again.
6. If your losses have included financial hardship, seek food, shelter and/or financial assistance to avoid further debt.
7. If some of your losses have been emotional, seek professional counseling or find a support group that can help you move closer to a place of healing.
CJFS offers individual and group counseling for people of all ages -- in person, by phone or via video apps such as FaceTime and Zoom. Insurance is accepted. To learn more, contact Clinical Director Marcy Morgenbesser, email@example.com or 205.879.3438.