This New Year, I didn’t feel quite as ready as I usually do to set my unrealistic resolutions like running a marathon (disclaimer: I never will because I hate long distance running, but every year I wonder…) or KonMari-ing my entire house (every year I say I will but still haven’t). Unfortunately, a family member unexpectedly passed away before the holidays. My family grieved the loss while still trying to celebrate the holidays. It ended up being a surprisingly bittersweet time to have everyone together.
I’m lucky to have the support I’ve had to overcome those difficult stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) and land on acceptance. It was not a pain-free process. It took countless conversations with different family members to make sense of what had happened. Not every conversation was deeply emotional or even teary-eyed. Part of processing our grief together was sharing memories of happier times. We all had a fear of what the future might look like for our family, but slowly the conversations started forming a plan that fell into place like pieces in Tetris. There was also some time spent sitting around playing Tetris. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment we all started feeling better, but I could feel the shift. There’s still more progress to be made, which is why I had to let go of the idea that a new year would be like a reset button.
We’re a couple weeks into the new year now, and this experience got me to slow down and think about loss, grief, and healing. Last year, I saw clients grieving loss of relationships, loss of dreams and expectations, loss of material possessions, loss of jobs, loss of self, and loss of sense of security. The list could go on. When I see these clients again in the new year, their grief hasn’t magically disappeared. The process takes time and patience because grief doesn’t work on a schedule.
Some clients aren’t able to rely on their families, so part of their healing is gathering support from a network made up of friends, mentors, and therapists. A quick search will result in lists of self-help books and TED Talks. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for this process, although that would be nice. It’s about finding what works best for you and remembering that you’ve got options. Therapy can be a powerful tool, and I know personally how helpful it can be for those who use it.
No, I definitely will not be running a marathon or have a perfect conversion to minimalism this year; but I’m resolving to be an agent of change in other ways. This year, I will continue to provide comfort, empathy, and compassion to my clients grieving loss in their lives. I will empower clients to take charge and make changes when they’re ready. I will continue to be present with my family as they recover from last year’s loss. I will make sure that I am working to heal my own grief so that it doesn’t get in the way of other experiences this year. This year’s resolution is to work on healing last year’s grief. Maybe when the weather’s warmer, I’ll add running back to the list.
An Thai, MS, provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with An.