The coming of a New Year means something different for everyone. For some, it's a reason to go out and get crazy, celebrate a new start and make promises that they may or may not keep in the coming months. For others, it's a chance to hunker down, watch New Year's Rockin' Eve (is it still called that or did I just date myself?), and sleep in the next morning.
Some look forward to a new beginning and some are sad to leave the previous year behind. And that's never more true than when a significant loss is involved.
I've never been a big New Year's Eve person. I'm more the "hunker down" variety than the "get crazy" girl. Going out on New Year's has always made me paranoid because I worry about the people who are (as I always say to my kids) making "bad decisions" and hitting the road when they shouldn't be. And to be honest, I really didn't care much about New Year's Eve growing up. I would sometimes stay awake to watch the ball drop but more often than not I would ring in the New Year in my bed and snuggled under a mound of blankets.
But not in 2007.
That year - the one I can safely say was the worst in my life - I couldn't wait for New Year's Day which meant I stayed up all night to welcome it.
"This is it," I thought with more excitement than I've ever felt on a December 31st. "The day I leave it all behind. The start of something new."
I couldn't wait to be able to say to people "my husband died last year" instead of the heart-wrenching "my husband died a few months ago." Even though by the time the New Year rolled around he had only been gone for 6 months I was thrilled with the prospect of phrasing it differently. That was during a time in my widowhood when I looked forward to being as far away from that dreaded day as I could get, thinking that if I could just make it to the one year mark, no one would think of me as a widow anymore. Even me.
I don't know why I thought that. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross certainly didn't outline it in her stages of grief. But there you have it.
Can anyone say DENIAL???
I was certain that other widows would feel the same way I did - that getting as far away from The Bad Year is what we all wanted. That was until I met a woman who looked at the coming New Year as yet another loss.
"I don't want to be able to say the last time I saw my husband was last year," she said sadly. "I want to be able to say I just saw him a few months ago. And that these pictures were taken this year - not last. And that just this spring we took a wonderful trip together - not that it happened last year."
And when she put it that way, I could understand how someone might be sad to see The Bad Year go.
Many things about widowhood have surprised me, but really none so much as the different ways we all look at things. Some look at the waning relationships they now have with their in-laws as a blessing, some consider it another loss. Some look at widowhood as a chance to start anew and create something within themselves they didn't know was possible and some look at it as something so shattering that they may never be able to find their true selves in all of the debris. And some look at it all as part of God's plan while others see it more as life's cruel joke.
As with everything in life, it's all about perspective.
But today as I prepare to welcome the New Year, I can't help but be optimistic. I'm one of those people who usually wakes up in the morning as if life is a gift to be opened and I wonder what surprises are in store for me in the next 24-hours. I've learned by now that some of those surprises can come in forms I could really do without, but that doesn't mean the hope isn't there.
Beginning a New Year is no different for me than starting a new day. I do find it strange, however, when I think about that new widow, that later this year I will be able to say that my husband has been gone for 6 years (oh, how she wished she could be at this point way back then!). It's weird to me that I've been living this life for that long.
But it's also a chance for me to look back at all of those New Year's Eves - the one I was excited about, the one when I felt so lonely because I realized how alone I was, and the ones when I've had to make the effort to stay positive - and truly think about how far I've come. Even since last year, so much has changed in my life, some good, some not-so-good. But what has remained constant is the change itself.
And my determination to do with it what I can.
However you are choosing to spend this evening, I wish you peace, safety, and the best start to the New Year you can possibly have.
Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014). She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.