Creating Space and Rediscovering Ourselves in the New Year

Author: Erin Jacobson

As every year ends and a new one dawns, we come to a reckoning of who we have been and what we have devoted our time to over the previous 12 months. The morning of January 1st, we brush off the glitter and dust of last night’s celebration and sit down to contemplate our resolutions. “This year I’ll be better,” we think to ourselves, “this year I will stop being this… or start doing that…”. We write down in firm letters the actions we are resolved to take to become stronger, brighter versions of ourselves.

But what do resolutions look like as we close out a year like 2020? This year has turned the world as we know it on its head and we have been left to make sense of an entirely new landscape. For those of us who are grieving the death of a loved one, we have not only had the pain of their loss to upend our daily lives, we also have been surrounded by a collective grieving. Our personal losses have been compounded by the complications of the surrounding world and we find ourselves not knowing who we are and how to take steps forward in our new reality.

As we go into the new year, rather than tasking ourselves to be resolved to accomplish this and that, perhaps this year we choose to give ourselves the grace of making space to see what our internal voice has to teach us. Perhaps instead of giving ourselves a firm talking to of how we need to be something more, we tune into rediscovering the beauty of who we are, of reclaiming the parts of ourselves that have gone unnoticed and neglected. Perhaps the only thing we resolve to do is to make space to rediscover and define ourselves. There is enough harshness surrounding us, we would do well to make room for more kindness within us.

How do we do this? How can we reconcile who we’ve been and who we are becoming? What are the lessons that grief is teaching us — not just with mourning, but with living? We can make sense of ourselves, our lives, and our broken hearts when we are able to root ourselves in what we know to be true and rise toward growth, healing, and connection.


Getting Outside

Outdoor scene

One way to begin to tune into ourselves is to simply go outside and move. If we can allow ourselves to go for a walk or run several times a week, we begin to stimulate our brains to think in new ways. When we combine movement and nature, we are not only giving care to our physical bodies, we are also bringing ourselves into the present moment and allowing nature to teach us. If we consciously encourage ourselves to notice what is around us, we will see lessons both big and small. We can notice the pace of nature, her wildness and her beauty. We can see how plants and trees go through the seasons and the ways they heal themselves. We are also able to shake ourselves out of the same pathways our minds go over and over again by being stimulated with new things.


Creating Art

art therapy

Another tool we can use is to make space for creating and using our hands. For so many of us, our modern lives have been whittled down to electronic devices. We are constantly stimulated by texts, social media, virtual meetings and email. Our wrists hurt from the repetitive motions on a keyboard and phone. We can continue to make space to rediscover ourselves by taking conscious time out from our devices to create. Perhaps this means cooking or a handicraft or a project around the house. Perhaps it means turning towards art as a teacher to look within. In grief we often struggle to find the words to express what we feel. Especially when we are new to grief, the world seems to have turned upside down. We may have never met another person who has experienced something similar and this can leave us feeling incredibly alone.

When we open ourselves up to creating art, we open ourselves up to discovering more of what lies underneath the surface that we feel but maybe don’t know how to define. Collage is one of the easiest ways to approach art as a healing tool if you don’t know where to begin. For this, find one or two magazines or catalogues, scissors, a sheet of paper to attach images on and glue or tape. As you flip through the magazine, see what stands out to you without judging it. Rip or cut out the word or image and see what things start to pile up. As you begin to arrange and glue images onto the paper, you will begin to see themes emerge. The images and words will become your teacher and something you can come back to on the road of self-discovery. Coming back to past collages or other art pieces is a way for us to see where we have been. So often in grief it can feel like we haven’t made any progress in the journey at all, but if we are able to go back to a journal entry or a collage, we can see the markers of growth.


Finding Community

survivors at women's empowerment retreat

One other way to make space for self-care and self-discovery is to allow others into your process. Perhaps, since your loss has occurred, you are feeling isolated in your former community. Perhaps you don’t feel like you fit any longer and that you don’t know anyone who is going through what you have. If that is the case, we invite you to look at the communities you can access through your TAPS Family. There are a variety of avenues to create relationships within the virtual community and listening to the stories of others who have gone through a similar journey helps us understand our own.


Giving Grace - to Ourselves

As you step into the new year, I hope you allow yourself to experience the same kindness you show so many others. I hope instead of focusing on all the ways you are not enough, you can give space to rediscover all the ways you are beautiful and resilient and courageous. I hope you take the time to create new avenues for growth. I hope you dare to see yourself through the same eyes that those who love you do. I hope you resolve to enter this new year with gentleness and grace within your relationship with yourself.

Erin Jacobson is Senior Advisor, TAPS Outreach and Engagement and the surviving fiancée of Cpl. Jason Kessler, U.S. Army.

Photos: TAPS Archives


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