It’s New Year 2024 – for those of us that have lived through the Millenium parties, it may be a shock to notice how much time has passed since then!
When we embark on a New Year, a whole new chapter ahead of us, popular culture tells us to celebrate the successes and achievements of the past year. What we are not reminded of is the importance of also acknowledging and grieving the losses we may have experienced, and to identify opportunities to do things differently or put things right in the coming year.
My grandparents all passed away when I was between the ages of six and 14. I had the opportunity to attend two of their funerals, due to geographical location at the time, and witnessed, within the extended family, the grieving and mourning aftermath of them all – some with an adherence to wearing black for many months, some through open weeping, others through a more introverted closure of a person, for a while, and many more through heightened physical ailments for some time – bodies that expressed their emotions through physical manifestations of grief. I was curious, even then, at how differently people grieved.
During my 20s, I lost a university friend, and I witnessed the bereavement of two women close to me who lost their babies during birth or soon after, as well as my partner’s sudden loss of his father. My 30s brought the suicide of two friends, the bereavement of infertility of someone very dear to me, the death of my favourite Great Aunt, and the loss of my auntie, far too soon in her life.
My 40s have, so far, brought the loss of a very special woman I grew up with, a second sister to me during my childhood. I have lost my dad. I have also observed, helplessly, more infertility and infant loss of women close to me.
15+ losses through death.
And each time it happens, it’s different, and it’s like a physical tear inside my body. And I heal. I process things differently, but the process is similar. And each time someone else passes away, I remember everyone else who passed away. And every loss you experience, in any part of your life, needs to be processed as death – death of a hope, a dream, a friendship, a stage of your life, an identity – so many little deaths before the final one comes to claim us.
Many of us may try to shield our small people from such big losses, to protect them, but if we allow them to sit alongside us as we openly grieve, and to support them in their own reactions, we show them how to grieve, how to process loss, how to work through loss and come out, alive and ready to live, on the other side. We often them a chance to be fully supported through this journey, a chance they may not get as adults working through loss. And the older we get, the more losses there are. And each time, through processing these losses, it helps us focus more on life.
Death and losses and endings are so important in learning how to fully live, and how to appreciate life and being alive.
By looking back and acknowledging both sides of the coin – the gifts and the losses – we find a way to truly live. So I leave you with this thought – that through loss, we find life.