It’s safe to say that 2016 has been a terrible year. In fact, I could probably go ahead and just call it like it is, and say that 2016 has been the absolute worst year of my entire life.
As the year draws to a close, I am naturally prone to spend some time reflecting and processing. It’s always been like that. There is just something so natural about saying goodbye before saying hello.
This week, there has been a flurry of posts on social media by folks ready to say “peace out” to 2016. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. A contentious presidential election. War and disease and natural disasters. Celebrity deaths. People are weary. I get that.
As my newsfeed was flooded this week with posts about the death of Carrie Fisher and then the subsequent death of her mother Debbie Reynolds, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit awkward and uneasy. I get it. There have been a lot of celebrity deaths this year. So many public figures and entertainment icons have died.
But as a bereaved mother–one who is grieving a much more intimate loss this year–I can’t help but feel just a little bit ambivalent over the outpouring of public grief over celebrity deaths. After all, I love the Star Wars movies as much as the next person, and the character of Princess Leia is one of the all time great female leads, and while I certainly feel some grief for the family and close friends of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, I just can’t bring myself to publicly grieve over hollywood icons whom I have never met.
Not when I and family and friends who are grieving very real and close-to-home losses as this year draws to a close.
Not when my dear friend’s sister, a middle school teacher and basketball coach was tragically killed in a car accident just weeks ago.
Not when our family is reeling from the deaths of three close family members this year.
Not when I am grieving the loss of my firstborn son.
So many people are ready to say goodbye to this year. “Kiss my a**, 2016,” as one of my dear friends so eloquently put it. But if I’m being really honest, I’m feeling very conflicted on this particular New Year’s Eve. Sure, there is a part of me that is ready to just be done with the godforsaken year… to say goodbye to the heartache and the grief of what has truly been the absolute worst year of my life. And yet there is a part of me that wants to hang on. The changing of the calendar feels like it puts a chasm between me and Alexander. It’s another step away, another day away, another year away, from the few precious moments that we got to spend holding our only son.
As I sat and processed with a friend yesterday afternoon, she asked me, “are you afraid of that distance and time?” And, while my initial reaction was not one of fear, perhaps she was onto something. Because, if I’m being honest, there is a little fear that comes with moving into a new year. Fear that the memories of those precious moments we had with Alexander will get fuzzy and start to fade. Fear that people around us will begin to think that if it’s a new year we should be somehow getting “better” or “moving on” from our grief. Fear that people will stop saying Alexander’s name or that people around us will forget. Fear of feeling more and more isolated and alone in our grief as others continue to return to normal and we continue trying to find our footing in some sort of “new” normal.
Yesterday, as I was reading an article titled A Snapshot of Grief, I was struck by how perfectly these feelings were articulated:
I have come to understand that there are no shortages of contradictions when dealing with grief. There are days that I would give anything to be out of this nightmare. To live in some other reality- any reality, as long as it is not this one! Days when I want nothing more than to be normal, no longer wanting to hurt, and willing to give anything if it would allow me to hold my baby again. And there are times when I don’t want this pain and agonizing grief to ever leave because it is all I have left of my [son]; it somehow makes [him] real, so I grasp at it through the air and hold onto it as tightly as I can.
So, today as 2016 draws to a close, my feelings are complicated and my emotions are mixed. I am ready to kiss 2016 goodbye and I’m not. I’m ready to move forward into a new year and I’m not. I’m not looking forward to a happy new year, and I imagine that tonight as the ball drops and champagne is poured I will be a hot mess of emotion. More than anything, I hope and pray that this new year is a gentle one. Because that, my friends, is what this grieving soul needs about now.
I just miss my sweet boy Alexander. I just miss him so much.