Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I Can't Say Happy New Year

I have never been so glad to toss out an old calendar, to move on to a new year.

I'm under no illusions that changing the date on the calendar will suddenly make my life easier or my grief dissipate, but putting 2013 behind me is still a relief.

Although I could still cling to the magic of Christmas to carry me through that holiday, I don't think my new year's greetings will hold a lot enthusiasm, despite my relief in seeing the year arrive. "Happy New Year," no matter how many times I may say it, still feels false on my tongue. Happiness is a ray of sunshine that occasionally penetrates the gloom of a gray winter sky, and it's as welcome as those bursts of brilliance but often as fleeting.

Stumbling onto a blog about being depressed and facing the New Year, I found three recommendations: don't dwell on the bad/failures of past year; don't look at the new year as another dark mountain to climb; and don't go all crazy with expectations for a somehow terrific new year. I'm doing my best to avoid those three landmines although forgetting the "bad" of 2013 is impossible

At the same time, January, that long, cold, dark month, seems like the perfect time to grieve. Seriously, I've always hated January and for that matter February as well and tend to battle a bout of seasonal depression each year any way. My emotions will be in tune with the season for a change, but while that may make it easier to grieve, it may also mean I have to fight harder to avoid serious depression. Arming myself with that knowledge up front may help, as will the short few weeks that I've spent building a support network. I know who I can call, even if I've not done so yet.

So while I dread the coming month, I always do. I hate the long, cold, dark nights, the days where the weather cannot commit to sunshine or snow, the frozen water in the dog's pans, the chilly rain and omnipresent mud, the bundling and huddling against the cold. Perhaps I'll be able to focus on my total disdain for the weather outside, instead of the same conditions that often seem to take over my emotions as well. Perhaps by knowing that the winter will pass, I'll be able to mark off the days internally as well and heal, even if the process is a slow as the almost imperceptible lengthening of the days

Putting December and the first Christmas without Ethan away in my memory box is a step toward survival. Beginning a new year still dragging a gray blanket of grief and knowing that I face the a long series of looming "firsts without Ethan" is still preferable to being mired in the holidays and the month of his death.

Of course, when I take the time to look at it that way, I know the year to come will be filled with emotional traps hiding in my path like quicksand just waiting for an unwary step to pull me under.

Holidays, although the big one we celebrated as a family is behind me for a year now, will be minefields. Most were days he didn't seem to care about any way, be they Valentine's Day, Easter, or even Mother's Day. But April 14 will still be his birthday and my mother's and last year we were all together, clean and sober, and it will never be that way again. Even if we all avoid mention of the day, if there's no celebration for my mom, that reality will still bear down on me like a tornado in the spring.

But I have months to prepare for that, to somehow find a storm cellar that will protect me from what I know is coming. And being forewarned by every grieving parent I know, perhaps I can make plans to be far away and distracted on that day.

Realistically, though, I know it is something I'll have to get through, even if it is a day or two late and no matter where I try to hide. Ethan won't be turning 24 this year. He's trapped in youth, free from the aches and pains of aging in a body that should have been better cared for, spared the painful goodbyes of watching family and friends slip away, released from his addiction and our constant pleas. Like a prehistoric dragonfly preserved in amber, he'll live on in my mind a smiling, blue eyed young man of 23, even while his sister ages and I tick off the years on my calendar.

I dread his birthday and all the other days when I'll randomly think of him and miss him, but I know that the only thing that will ease this pain is time and learning to live with the loss.

Welcoming the new year is a world wide marker of time passing, of things changing, of moving ahead even I feel like it is with heavy feet still caked in the red clay of a grave in a mountain hillside.

I want to move ahead. I want 2014 to be a little better. I want time to heal.

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