Every year, as the glow of the holiday season fades, another 12-month trip around the sun concludes. The year's end is often bittersweet. We reminisce about the goals and dreams of the year before, and hopefully, get excited for future possibilities.
A new year. The first page on the calendar. A chance to challenge yourself with a resolution or goal. Perhaps even the start of a new project or job.
For me, 2023 marks the beginning of life without my father.
On December 30, I lost my father. He suffered from a brief illness, and his passing was sudden and sharp.
The reality of his permanent absence from my life still hasn’t set in. As soon as he passed, I leapt into protect and prepare mode, doing everything I could to care for our mother and make final arrangements on her behalf.
All of that was a healthy distraction from the pain of his passing. His death doesn’t feel real right now, but I know it soon will.
I’m not here to give you ten steps for getting over the death of a parent. I don’t know the steps. If there are any, I’m still on step one. And that’s OK.
This is a highly personal experience. There are no rules for what you can mourn: jobs, friendships, pets, people. What’s important to you doesn’t have to be the same as someone else.
Both reactions are valid.
Sometimes, grief surprises us because we feel differently than we think we should. For example, if both an absentee parent and a beloved pet who provided daily comfort passed, which would affect you more?
It’s all about your experiences and perception. There should be no judgment about how, when, or who we grieve, and you’ll get none from me.
A season to mourn
Taking time to process loss is part of living an emotionally balanced life. Unfortunately, many of us want to keep our heads down and trudge forward, to skip the mourning and gloss over the sorrow. That never works.
I’ll admit ignoring this pain is tempting. Confronting the situation and taking the moral, emotional, and physical inventory necessary to heal—that’s much more difficult.
These feelings aren’t wrong—they’re a natural response to pain. But grief can’t be ignored, it has to run its course.
Rise with resilience
So the question becomes, how do we dig deep and find our strength in the midst of mourning? I think the answer lies in resilience.
Resilience can move us forward when we have no other way. Without it, many of us would be a puddle of emotions before we even enjoy our morning coffee. The energy we find that helps us get through the day is the same characteristic that helps us rise up from grief.
Heartache can be a catalyst for soul-searching. We think back on times spent with the people, places, or things we’ve lost. In those reflections, we can find the strength to carry on.
Don’t be fooled by this simple explanation. None of this is easy. Mustering the resilience to release ourselves from this kind of sorrow takes a great deal of time and effort.
Purpose can help ease this burden. The more we have to live for, the easier it is to get back to living.
The start of something new
Loss prepares us for the future. Maybe another death, or perhaps some other unknown. At the very least, losing something or someone marks the beginning of a new chapter in life.
A few years ago, I unexpectedly lost a dear friend. The grief was raw, and the recovery a challenge. The hard-earned emotional growth I experienced then has and will continue to help me now.
Mourning, grief, loss. We can use these as tools to evolve, but only when we have the clarity to see our experience in that light.
I think about my father every day. He was a steady force in our family. Truthfully, it’s for my mother’s pain and loss that I grieve the most. What does her world look like without him? But I know I can acclimate to this reality by taking the time to mourn and by harnessing the power of purpose.