Here we are on the last day of 2016 and most people around the world are preparing for New Year celebrations. Some will be at church, some will be toasting champagne, some may be spending a fun evening at home with family or friends and others may be sleeping peacefully as the new year rolls right in. Some will be at lively places like New York City or Las Vegas, while others will be at local celebrations where there will be fireworks and concerts. Some may even be participating in the annual tradition of “watching the ball drop” on television. For what most consider a time of excitement and saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day for bereaved parents can be extremely difficult.
My personal experience is this….last year (during the first few months after our son passed away), people had prepared me for “the holidays.” No one said too much to me about Halloween. After all, my husband and I don’t usually do too much for Halloween anyway and as a way to soothe any type of sad feelings that may have crept in on October 31, he and I spent time with our young nieces and passed out candy and greeted all of the little Trick-or-Treaters. People told me that I may not feel as grateful around Thanksgiving while others would probably be very reflective and thankful due to their many blessings. I took a mental note and completely understood and I thoroughly enjoyed being with our families around the dinner tables. People made it clear to me that Christmas may be hard and that as December 25 approached that I may not feel up to decorating or buying gifts for anyone. Again, I secretly remembered that theory and was mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with Christmas coming–but I also had four months to work through all of my emotions since stores and people start preparing for Christmas in September. I ended up loving Christmas, as I did every year, and although the first time I heard a Christmas song, I got teary eyed and had to turn the music off, as the days went by and as Christmas came, I was OK. I enjoyed being on the giving and receiving end of gift giving. But then New Year’s Eve came. And that’s where I lost it.
No one prepared me for the New Year. No one. So, as our family and friends gathered to celebrate the end of 2015 and the grand entrance of 2016, a jovial spirit of happiness filled the atmosphere. I was good. I was happy too, like I was at every previous New Year’s Eve celebration that I’d ever gone through. And then at 11:58 pm on December 31, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t leave 2015 because my baby was born in 2015. And if I left 2015 behind, I would proverbially be leaving my baby, the experience of having him, his 10 days of life and everything that we had experienced with our pregnancy behind. I needed time to stop. I needed everything to come to a freezing halt. People were on the TV getting excited in anticipation of midnight approaching. Our family and friends were cheering and were looking forward to the clock striking 12. People were starting to kiss their loved ones. The television host started the countdown and simultaneously, I had a million thoughts racing through my head as I sat in shock on our loved one’s couch. Everyone around me was counting down too. 10, 9, 8….please, God, please let time stop. 7, 6, 5….Lord, I’m not ready for this. 4,3,2….Oh my God, the New Year is coming. 1….I started sobbing uncontrollably, and hot tears started falling down my face, faster and faster because no matter how hard I tried, they would not stop. Everyone around me was screaming Happy New Year and the people on the television started singing Old Lang Syne, while I was weeping. Everyone else seemed to be excited to leave 2015 behind….but I was not.
2015 was a defining year for me. It was the year that I became a mother and it was also the year that I lost my child. It was the year that I was full of hope and faith for this little person who would be coming into my, my husband’s and my family’s world and it was the year that that same joy faded as my baby took his last breath’s in my arms. So while everyone else was shouting Happy New Year, I found myself on the floor of a bathroom crying loudly and inconsolably. No one prepared me for the New Year. And why would they? I don’t think anyone thinks about the New Year possibly being a time of sadness.
Finally after about 30 minutes of wailing, my husband and my two young nieces were able to help me regain my composure. They all gave me hugs and told me that it would be OK. Even if it didn’t feel like I would be, I knew that I eventually I would be OK. Afterall, I had made it 30 minutes into the new year and there would be many more minutes, and days and weeks coming. And since I had already made it those first 30 minutes, I could keep on going. The rest of the night for me was…blah. I was there, I was present but my heart ached because I had gone into a new year and my baby hadn’t.
I write all of this to say to any bereaved parent, that it is normal to not feel overly excited about the New Year. It is also OK to reflect on your experience and to let others who you trust with your feelings know that you’re having a tough time with all of this “out with the old and in with the new” stuff. In fact, if you know other bereaved parents, I’d recommend sharing your sentiments with them because they’ll be able to understand you better than anyone.
And on another note-it is even normal if you do feel overly excited about the New Year that is ahead. This past year was probably very difficult for you and there is nothing wrong with being ready to see it end. You have a right to be filled with great anticipation and expectation of what is to come. I am believing with you that your best days are ahead of you.
No matter how you are feeling, I want you to know that you are loved and are thought about on today and many other days. The New Year is coming, and even if your experience happened in one year, it doesn’t mean that you can’t hold on to the love for your child, the memories you created and the love that you shared for a lifetime. A calendar day changing will never be able to take that from you….not on New Year’s Day or any other day. That kind of love becomes a part of you for forever.
I’m wishing you a peaceful, joyous, blessed and Happy New Year.