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Here Comes 2018! Happy New Year… Or Is It?

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The holidays can be painful reminders of a life that “was,” but New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with parades, football games and gatherings are triggers that make you realize how different your life really is now.

Our hopes center around the idea that this is a “new year.” In the “celebrating” of the New Year, our intentions are courageous. We hope that we will heal and feel that our lives are settling into a “new norm.” Our reality is often so different.

The new year is coming

Some of you are wondering what you will do as a “single” and others may be wondering what they will do as a new “couple.” In either case, you are still in a life without your spouse, facing a major celebratory holiday. Living in that space brings with it all kinds of triggers, questions, anxiety and negative emotions.

For years you have been with your loved one on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Those years are packed with memories and now you are supposed to try to trick your heart into believing that being “single” or being a new “couple” will alter the impact of all of those memories.

Ignoring or suppressing those memories and feelings just doesn’t work. You can’t trick your heart! Acknowledging your new status helps you to find some alternatives and choices that can help you to get through this difficult holiday. It might help to keep the following in mind:

  • Old Memories and New Memories can exist together.

In fact, the making of new memories will expedite your grieving process.

  • Set minimal expectations for each situation you may encounter on this Holiday.

You may be surprised that all of the anxiety you are experiencing will evaporate once you are in the moment. We call this anticipatory anxiety. It is very normal but can certainly be a set-up for negative thinking.

  • Take small steps. Those baby steps can bring you a big return.

“Bravo, I did it!” With each success, a sense of empowerment returns.

  • Say “Yes” to only as much as you think you can handle.

Doing this will bring you a sense of “Hope for the future” and afford you new experiences.

  • Do not set an expectation of perfection.

Yay! Hug yourself — you have moved forward just by taking one small step.

  • Make sure you have a “way out.” This is a recipe for your success in venturing into new situations.

“A way out” can be something as simple as driving your own car or setting a time limit for a short visit to a party, or to someone’s home. Tell your host, “I would love to come, but I might need to leave early. Will that be a problem?”

  • Remember that saying “No” is a complete sentence.

“I would ordinarily look forward to being with everyone. I hope you understand that this year is different for me so I will be doing something different, but thank you so much for including me.”

  • Allow yourself to sit with your feelings, whatever they are, and recognize that you can have a negative feeling and a positive feeling at the same moment.

I want to go but I don’t want to have to explain anything. What if I start feeling sad and my tears begin to flow? These are my very good friends, they will understand. I can leave. I can so “No.”

  • Leaving town is an option but be prepared to possibly experience many of the same feelings of being “out of place.” Your grief may travel with you.

The “new norm,” no matter where you are, is still a “new norm.” No matter where you go, your feelings go with you. On the other hand, a change of scenery can be helpful to some people.

Regardless of the options you make available to yourself, remember the New Year’s Holiday is only 24 hours long.

There is a “buffet” of ways to handle New Years. As with so many of your choices regarding your “new norm,” none are perfect and none are “right” or “wrong.” It is mostly about what fits for you.

Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy 2018 from HOPE Connection!

By Sue Rowen, M.A., LMFT