Conversations in Grief Blog: Better Next Year
“2021 will be better.” It’s a sentiment expressed everywhere. With the COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, many are hopeful that “normal life” will be coming back soon. When we can do all the things we’ve been missing and, in my imagination, strangers will start hugging on the streets because they can, and “it’s finally over!” But will life be normal? Thousands of people have died, jobs have been lost, businesses have closed, and there has been so much suffering. After a year of incredible loss, it may be unrealistic to think things will just be “normal” again.
When someone dies the first 12 months after are often described as the most challenging for their loved ones. It’s often called, “the year of firsts,” it’s measured by milestones like the first wedding anniversary, first holiday season, and other events are marked off as the first without their loved one. For those of us who have lived through the 2020 pandemic, 2021 may feel just like that. A year of firsts. The first time I’ve hugged my loved one since COVID-19, the first time we’ve gone to get coffee with a friend since COVID-19, and many other important moments.
There will be joy in regaining some level of normalcy but, when we’ve gone through such an intense time of separation and loss as 2020 has brought on, there will be wounds that need tending and losses that need processing. Those firsts may be harder than we think.
The word, bereavement, means to be deprived. 2020 has been a year of deprivation and the natural response when we have been deprived of the people and things that are important is grief. 2021 may be a year of better things but it’s alright to begin it by acknowledging how much 2020 took from us. This next year may be filled with good firsts but for many, it will be one of grief.
Adjusting to “normal” after being deprived can be a challenging task. Years ago I experienced this when I moved back to the U.S. after living overseas. I remember how overwhelming shopping for food or household items was for me. I would experience strong emotions over simple tasks as I had learned to live so differently. The excitement over being able to eat at a restaurant I missed or do other familiar things was overshadowed by my adjusting to life in the states again. You may find yourself experiencing strong emotions in 2021 over ordinary things simply because you can do them and that is okay.
If we could make a collective resolution for this next year I would encourage us all to resolve to be gentle with ourselves and others. 2021 is looking bright and shiny but we carry the damage of 2020 with us and many are hurting. This year as we countdown to midnight it may be worthwhile to light a candle in honor of the losses we have experienced this past year. The next year may be better but first, we must acknowledge the toll 2020 has taken, and give ourselves permission to grieve for as long as we need.