Accepting Loss


I know that as we cross into a New Year people will expect me to embrace all the resolutions for happiness for 2004. Is it wrong for me not to be ready to accept something as simple as a resolution to be happier after my daughter died only six months ago?


You are not wrong; you are brave to weather the pain of grief. It is a long road and a demanding journey, and not one that others can navigate for us. Nor can they impose their timetable on the work. A new calendar year cannot wipe clean the slate of your loss. While others celebrate and look forward, what has happened in your life asks that you look back, accept the reality of what happened, review your relationship with your daughter, and feel the myriad of emotions of her death and your loss. Your work in the moment and for the New Year is the on-going challenge of accepting the reality of your daughter’s death, and all that it means. It takes far more courage and character to do that work, than to prematurely put on a happy face.

I trust that others are well intentioned and want the best for you. But often others cannot tolerate our pain for long (often reminding them of their own unresolved pain and grief work) and wish us to move on more quickly than is realistic or healthy. I hope you can give yourself permission and make a new year’s resolution not to care for others’ disquiet and fear, but to pay attention and be respectful of the ways that grief has lanced your heart and changed you.

The work of grief asks that you look backward before you can move on to the future. If you are to heal, find resolution and meaning in your loss, you will engage in the demanding task of repeatedly reviewing what has happened in the past. No one can tell you how long that will take or what you must do to accomplish that; you may have to visit her gravesite weekly, repeatedly review medical charts, create a new scrapbook, or watch home movies every day by yourself. That will look to others as though you are stuck in the past, but it will propel you forward into the next task of learning new ways of being in the world without your daughter. This next task will be by trial-and-error, and may be a lifelong learning. But all of your work will lead you toward healing.

May the New Year be bright with your daughter’s memory, even while it is empty with her absence. My heart goes out to you.