Ring out the old for the new year.jpg

Ring out the old for the new year

By: Dr Graham Dexter and Dr Janice Russell

Email: [email protected]

AS THE year draws to its end, towards what the South Africans call ‘Old Year’s Night’, we might pause and contemplate the changes that this Old Year has brought our way.

Many philosophers believe that in order to let new people and experiences into our lives, we need to make space – to get rid of the clutter, physically and psychologically. Put simply, we need to say goodbye.

Big changes, welcome or unwelcome, entail a common element of loss, which may not always be overt. It’s helpful to acknowledge our losses and identify what we need to leave behind. Then we can say our goodbyes and truly embrace change.

There are many kinds of loss. Bereavement seems the most final of losses. Death can be cruel and can demand a great deal of faith in ourselves and in our greater values. Sometimes, when a life has run its course, or where there is great pain, death can also be a welcome, sad and yet natural event.  

Less visible losses include separations. Children of estranged partnerships may lose their sense of ‘parents’ as a single unit, grandparents might feel bereft because they are denied involvement with their grandchildren and our own migration may provoke sadness.

A journey

Although everyone is unique, loss experiences usually entail a journey through the following stages:  

• Shock

Whether expected or not, loss creates a sense of ‘what on earth has happened’?

• Denial

We might not really believe that this change has happened.

• Disorganisation

Nothing is as it was and we may have a sense of confusion.

• Anxiety

Our sense of trust in the world

feels threatened.

• Guilt

We experience regret or guilt for

feeling relieved.

• Anger

It is natural to feel angry, even furious when we experience big losses.

• Acceptance

With acceptance we reach the stage where we can follow through our journey into the future.

The expression of emotions is key to how we embrace change. We have tears for a reason, it can be a relief to cry as well as to laugh. It’s okay to talk about our loss, to express our feelings and to ask for help.

Anger can be difficult, but if we find a way to express our anger, then we tend to move on to a certain sense of liberation. If not, we can become depressed or embittered. Depression is said to be anger turned inward and bitterness can lie like a stone in your heart.  

Looking back

In looking back on 2006, some useful things to try might be:

• Make a list of what or who we want to say goodbye to. Identify what you will miss, what you are glad to get rid of and what qualities you will take forward with you.

• Write a letter, not necessarily to post, which expresses your feelings.

• Find a ritual to forgive yourself any irrational guilt. Remember you’re an ordinary person trying to cope with the impossible.

• List what you have learned from

your experiences.

• Use photographs or objects to remember the value of a person past. Let your mind picture the happy memories too.

• Celebrate the changes you’ve made and the qualities and strengths you’ve used to make them.

•Ask yourself what are the good things I did this year and what can I be proud of?

As ever, if you are feeling stuck or severely depressed, do ask for professional help.

We wish you all an end of year that you would wish yourself.