As bells and toasts ring in the New Year, what rings true for you with its heralding? Are you:
- Anticipating a new beginning, replete with goals and aspirations?
- Anxious from the backlash of last year with its losses?
- Pensive about the future and this year’s role in it?
- Weary from the hectic holiday hustle?
- Full of unanswered questions?
Carefully confining the stockings and tree ornaments once again to their storage bins, my hands were busy, but my thoughts drifted. With the whys outweighing any answers, heaviness clouded rationality. The sheer density weighed on my soul as a subtle foreboding emerged, a feeling completely unfamiliar to me this time of year.
I love new beginnings, thriving on the anticipation of changing seasons, a new month, and especially a new year! But this December, my feelings surprised me:
- Dread instead of anticipation.
- Heaviness instead of hope.
- Fear drowning faith.
- A strong desire for the year to close, yet an overwhelming dread of the next.
Getting quiet to discover the root of this apprehension, arrows emerged: closing the year means leaving my loved one in it.
It’s the last year she walked through the gate to our door. The last year she called. The last Mother’s Day we celebrated together. Another moment of finality; one I didn’t see coming.
It’s a season of lasts. And firsts. With loss, it always is.
The first birthday without them. The first Thanksgiving with one less chair. The first Christmas with fewer presents to buy.
In any given season, we all experience loss of one kind or another. Your loss looks and feels different, yet it’s a loss nonetheless.
As you tuck lights and decorations back into their boxes and gaze into another year, what losses remain, yet to be processed?
- They moved far away.
- An unexpected layoff.
- A move to a new city or home.
- He moved out.
- She moved in.
- They quit calling.
- College created a vacant chair.
- The new job apprehends nights and weekends.
- A new diagnosis snatches normality.
Loss doesn’t have to be titanic to be tortuous. And finding the path through—not around—is imperative for healing and growth.
So as we clink glasses, hug necks, and ladle blackeyed peas, let’s toast to the New Year, but let’s also reflect on the previous one to move forward with a bit more clarity.
After years of practice, these rituals have become life-giving rhythms. I can hardly move forward without a few moments of post-year reflection. I’ve learned from some of the best and hope these New Year practices carry some clarity into the coming year.
Naming the unnamed things comforts the soul and declutters the mind.
This is the first step towards a more whole and healed self. The parts we cram into the ill-fitting, dark crevices of our soul are given lift. Their truth, in light of THE truth, ushers lightness, freedom, and ease of burden.
It’s not the experience that brings transformation, it’s our reflection upon our experience. Jan Johnson
As you wade into the uncharted waters of a fresh year, grab pen and paper—or your phone—and spend some time answering these questions*. Allow compassion to companion you; this is not a time of self-criticism or judgment but of observation.
- What losses have I experienced?
- What lessons have I learned?
- What worked for me? What didn’t?
- What relationships need mending, auditing, or ending?
- What questions am I carrying into the New Year?
- What arrows do I see on the horizon, pregnant with possibility?
Loss became my new word to end this year. In light of this realization, how I move forward needed careful consideration. With therapy and some processing, EMDR therapy is on the horizon.
In addition, examining my mental and physical capacity rendered arrows, or clues, pointing in the direction of limiting my normal active and engaged schedule.
My family also experienced different challenges and losses this fall, thus my focus narrowed. At times, I struggled with guilt over each loss, decision, and direction, but doubling down on prayer and time with Jesus revealed arrows pointing in the direction of prioritizing health, wholeness, and family: for a season.
The “for a season” part is critical for me to remember. I’m easily guilted by my thoughts, or the pressing needs around me. Remembering there are seasons is important for all of us, I think. It helps bring perspective, like an internal compass.
As you consider these questions, clues will emerge—arrows pointing you forward. Goals will peek over the horizon, and your year will slowly take shape, like colors emanating from a shadowy canvas. If it takes the shape of one walking with God in the messy losses and gains of another year, you’re off to a good start.
Friend, whatever the New Year holds, you can trust the One who holds all it contains, including you: gently, tenderly, fiercely, and lovingly. With each step, find pockets of rest and time to dream, then hold on. His grace will be sufficient; His counsel, sure; His love, secure.
I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalm 16:7-8
*Some of the above questions taken from The Next Right Thing Guided Journal