New Year's Remembering the Love
Author: Ellen Andrews
I can’t say that I remember much about the first new year after David died. Those first months were a blur. I somewhat remember that I felt a bit like the loser in a prize fight after having endured the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your mind and heart are already carrying the heavy burden of grief only to have salt rubbed into that wound with the onslaught of the festive holiday season.
Strangely, the new year almost came as a relief — relief of having survived the holidays. Yet, there was anxiety with facing a new year without my love, who I missed with a depth that can’t be described.
I experienced one of the challenges of grief — the sensation of a loss of control. Everything had changed; everything was swirling. The calendar reflected this as it marched on — flipping from one month to the next when, at times, I just wanted it to stop…even if only for a moment to catch my breath.
The calendar almost mocks us in those early days of the grief journey. Our hearts want to cling to the past, reverse time. Yet the calendar is signaling to look forward.
At no time is this more prevalent than on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day — a closing out of the old year and looking toward the new. This is a time celebrated with revelry, a sense of wonder and promise.
I recall vividly the new year David and I shared in Boston. Walking around Boston — the air was cold, but there was a warmth with people out and about, all in a festive mood and getting ready to ring in the new year. Clam chowder at Durgin Park, ice sculptures, and celebrating the new year at a medieval dinner theater — we were looking forward to what the new year would bring. We were planning our wedding, our future. We were looking ahead with hope, excitement, and love. Forty-four days later, though, it was all shattered in an instant. The promise of that New Year’s Eve was gone.
As I shared earlier, it is difficult to recall exactly how I felt that first new year. Perhaps not remembering is my brain’s way of sparing me from the memory of just how painful it was at the time. That new year came and went, and I moved along my personal journey. The calendar marched on. The days, weeks, months, and years passed.
I can’t recall when holidays, including New Year’s, became tolerable for me. It was a gradual progression over time…a switch didn’t all of a sudden get flipped.
I tried to hold onto my faith and to the fact that I had family and friends who would be there to support me. And while it took time, I was able to break free from the intense pain of grief and focus on the wonderful man who had been a part of my life and taught me so much. I was able to look at those images from New Year’s in Boston and smile once again. Granted, this did not come quickly or easily. I found peace. I found smiles. I found joy again.
You may be navigating your first new year, or you may have experienced a few turns of the calendar since your world was forever changed. Each year can bring a myriad of emotions — reflecting back and looking forward, carrying a heavy heart, or discovering a new lightness you haven’t felt in a while, spending the time quietly at home, or out sharing time with friends and family.
There is no right path, no quick solution. You don’t necessarily get over it — you get through it. This experience is part of you. You carry that forward into a new year and into a space you did not expect. You do not, however, enter into this uncharted territory alone.
You have the support of the community of survivors to which you now belong. A community that, regardless of when, where, or how you came to them, will welcome you with compassion and understanding, and without hesitation. This circle of love will be with you now and for the weeks, months, and years to come. While your journey, emotions, and perspectives may shift over time, there will always be a place for you.
If you need support, this community will be there. If you need to find purpose and use your experience to be a comforting presence to another, you can find avenues to help you take this step through TAPS and in your local community. If, after a few years, you just need to reconnect, the same arms that welcomed you in the darkest days of grief will be waiting for you again.
Many make resolutions as the calendar changes. While I am not big on this concept, I do hope you resolve to grant yourself a little patience, gentleness, and compassion in the new year. This is a difficult journey. You may be working through those early times of grief. Or, you may have reached a place of equilibrium, finding strength, purpose, and a new appreciation for the beauty and joy that is still present in the world.
Wherever you are, remember the gifts that have been brought to you on this journey. You have new friends — friends who share the experience of loss and also share their hearts, providing strength and hope. Carry forward the blessings given by your hero. We can’t change what has happened. What we can best do is to live — live a full life and be the person they loved. We can carry that love within us and pay it forward. We can share our experience, and we can share our gifts…just as they shared theirs.
For those new to the grief journey, draw strength from those who help you feel safe and loved. And when you feel you are at that place, celebrate who you are and who you have become through this experience.
Above all, remember the love this new year — love given, love received, love still left to share.
Ellen Andrews is the surviving fiancé of U.S. Navy Lieutenant David J. Huber.