New year, new you!
(Scene: Black and white video of someone crying)
Do you suffer from grief? Tired of going through life thinking about your dead loved one? When you go to the grocery store, do you see a favorite food of your late loved one, and immediately make your way to the wine and tissue aisle?
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Wouldn’t it be great to see this appear on your TV? Where all you had to do is just take a New Year’s Resolution to “not be sad” or to “get over it”. Most of us would pay any amount of money to not go through our day to day lives experiencing random triggers or stressful memories of those we’ve lost. But, just like most “as seen on TV” products...it’s snake oil. You can’t wish grief away. There is no magical pill that makes your thoughts stop. It may mask the symptoms temporarily, but the underlying cause (i.e. your dead spouse) will be there for the rest of your life.
Does that mean that setting a goal to say, live a happier, more fulfilling life after loss is useless? Certainly not. Having a goal or direction to strive for is one of the healthiest things one can do, in fact. But, why wait until New Year’s? Is a resolution more important because the earth happened to reach a certain position in its orbit? Why do we wait until January 1st to set these (mostly, unfortunately) unattainable goals?
My theory is perhaps more reactionary. When I notice and acknowledge there is a problem with myself, whether it be survivor’s guilt, separation anxiety, reactions to stressful moments, or even weight, I try to set a resolution to take care of it as soon as possible. In the past year, I’ve attended counseling. I’ve consciously noted building anger, and taken steps at that very moment to acknowledge it and take a breath. I’ve made plans to spend a few nights in the wilderness, well in advance, because I know it recharges me before things get too bad. I’ve tried (and failed, albeit) to eat better and lose a few pounds.
The goals, these resolutions, were formed in the middle of the year on arbitrary days. I didn’t use New Year’s 2017 as an excuse to look at my own issues, set some goals, and then table them for another 365 days.
Megan didn’t die on December 31st. It wasn’t her birthday, our anniversary, or a date marking some other significant event in her our our lives. I’ve tried in the past to set a New Year’s resolution, and always failed in it, for one reason or another. Perhaps it’s because it’s been a “forced” goal...like I was required by law to come up with a goal on January 1st. Again, it’s all well and good to have resolve and something to strive for, but putting it off until “next year” has never worked out for me.
When there is a problem that I CAN work towards resolving, I want to take action. I would much rather have new year’s be a deadline, rather than a start date. If it’s something that is unfeasible to “fix” in the first place, like “be grief free”, I want to be working towards it, knowing that there is really no end to it, especially just because it is a certain date.
See, to me, New Year’s resolutions have always been a form of procrastination. I have to think that our bills, weight, vices, and grief don’t all-of-a-sudden take a general turn for the worse on December 31 each year. I mean, sure, racking up a huge travel expense to go to New York and eat hot dogs, drink, and remember that your loved one isn’t there at midnight is a significant “spike” in those things, but really, “I’ll take care of it next year” isn’t the answer.
It’s why I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions. I fail at them. Either the goal I’m trying to reach is unattainable in the first place, or, deep in my heart, I don’t really feel that whatever it is I’m trying to do is all that important, or I would have resolved to do it sooner.
Are there things I want to achieve in 2018? Of course. I would love to be healthier, and to be even better able to manage my reactions to triggers and memories of Megan when they appear. I’d love to finally be consistent in bringing my love of the wilderness to everyone. Did I want those things only yesterday, because it was New Year’s day? Nope. I've wanted to achieve those things for awhile.
Honestly, this whole ramble isn’t simply grief related. I mean, we all should know that we can’t just resolve to get over losing our loved ones. We widow(er)s have it as an extra hurdle in many cases, but honestly, the goals and resolutions we set should be in spite of it, not because of it. They should be set when they need to be set.
If you have a goal you would like to achieve this year...start...but not because it’s New Year’s.