A new perspective in grief

Typically, the beginning of a new year has always prompted in me a fresh resolve to begin or recommit to a resolution that fell by the wayside long ago; usually a casualty of the inevitable hurly burly of life and the big beautiful mess that it so often is. The turning over of a brand new calendar page will evoke in me an optimism for the year that lies ahead. I am an optimist at heart and therefore am hopeful that a new year will be a little better. Summer has naturally been a time to take stock and plan for the year ahead.  However, this year I’ve approached things very differently. The events of the past 18 months have left on me a big heart wound. Last year was filled with so much sadness and grief, one does not simply turn the page and move on as if all that was in the past has no lasting impact on the present. While the end of a year naturally brings to a conclusion some things, feelings and emotions are a little more elusive to box up. Rather than resolving to do and be someth

New Beginnings

 New Beginnings: two words that hold such promise and hope. Just saying it out loud I can’t help but breathe out slowly and then smile; I love a new beginning. I was reminded this week how starting a fresh can be so mentally positive. On Monday afternoon my mother rang to wish me and the children a blessing for the start of a new school year. She said, “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it” (a favourite quote from Anne of Green Gables). I have closed the book of 2017; putting it on the shelf of life. While I’ve done this happily (some pages I wish weren’t written), I know it contains valuable lessons I will one day be glad to read again. However, for now I begin a new book, the story of 2018. Unlike the New Years resolutions that get made on January 1 and are invariably broken by January 31, my only resolve is to look ahead with hope and courage.  

Allowing yourself a new beginning, is an important part of being resilient. It’s a positive mindset that says you’re entitled to have another go; leaving the past behind and looking ahead. The start of a new school year is a natural point to have an optimistic vision for the future. My eldest son voiced this, when he said to me, “Year 9 was the worst year, but I have every hope that year 10 is going to be better.” I admire his honesty and his resolve, but also his vulnerability. He was willing to be hopeful, even when past experience has taught him things don’t always go according to plan. In that moment he demonstrated resilience.

However, not everyone finds it easy to take a positive view for a new year. For some, a new year might be coupled with a sense of fear and anxiety. Memories of past experiences prevent them from having a more optimistic outlook. I have one child who has this very challenge. On day 1 of the new school year, they do not skip off happily to school, expectant of good things in store; their dialogue reflects a more pessimistic mindset when they groan, “Here we go again!” 

Rather than try to convince them of an awesome new year (a potentially empty statement), I encourage a more attainable, present view. The view that a new day is a new start. Bil Keane puts it nicely in his cartoon The Family Circle when he says, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Having a day by day approach to life is an attitude that also fosters resilience. Sometimes in the looking ahead, we can be overwhelmed, and therefore a day by day, moment by moment method of doing life is helpful. 

The thought of a new day and a fresh start in how I approach parenting was impressed on me in a helpful book I’ve been reading entitled ‘With All Due Respect’. In it the authors Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock encourage mothers with a series of 40 dares that seek to build respectful and loving relationships with their teenage children. One of the dares is to “Hit the Reset Button”. They encourage the reader to think through a situation that isn’t working well, and to seek an alternative solution that will have a more positive outcome. While there are no guarantees that the new solution will be a resounding success, (never needing to revisit the old problem) what is helpful is the principle of starting over; a commitment to improvement.  To look at the past, learn from it and then leave it behind; being willing to try again and try something new.

So as you approach this new year in your family’s life, I encourage you to pause for a while to reflect on the year that has been, being mindful of the valuable lessons learned, and then make a choice to start over a new. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is you faithfulness.” Lamentations 3 vs 22-23


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