Bring Your Loved One with You

By Kerry J. Bickford, VOICES Editor

Once upon a time, when we were innocent, there was an almost magical quality to the coming year’s celebration. New Year’s resolutions were originally a way to review mistakes and resolve to do better the next year. Ringing out the old and ringing in the new was etched into our collective memories with the famous Times Square ball drop in New York City. Still, the idea of a new year is not always an exciting one, particularly for those who have experienced a beloved person’s death.

I’ve heard that those who are grieving dread the incoming year because their loved one will not be here to see it, and I remember feeling this way when we moved into 2019 without our son. It’s a symbolic representation of leaving our person behind, forever, and moving into a year — a life — they will never live to see. So, as much pain and chaos as the addiction journey created, it still feels difficult to move on without them. Even bad memories are hard to leave behind if it means that there will be no memories at all. That might be tough for most people to comprehend, but a grieving person will likely nod their head sadly in agreement. Letting go is the hardest thing of all. Without a clear idea of what happens after death, we can only cling to what we know, and that is life. For people who might have an unquestioning view that their loved one is in heaven and that they will join them, this is also true. It is an ongoing conflict, and we just have to hope that the power of our love prevails.

Moving forward doesn’t have to mean we are leaving them behind. While we move further away from when they were physically here with us, we can still think about our loved ones and how we will carry them with us. In this respect, a New Year’s resolution can be a way to help us assimilate the death of our loved one over time — a gift to ourselves as we honor that precious life that lives on inside us and that we will never forget.

My SADOD colleague Tanya Lord created some manageable goals to help with this process, and I’m sharing them here. I also found a second list in an online blog, and I liked these suggestions too. Both illustrate self-care and ways we can still take our people along into the next year, and the next, and the next — through stories, photos, laughter, and tears. In this way, we play an active role in keeping them alive in our hearts so they can continue to be with us as we move into an uncertain future.

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