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In the new year, embrace emotions

Features column

The start of a new year has often been a time that we look forward to in hopes of starting anew in various areas of our lives. We create lists of resolutions, some realistic, some not, and we are filled with a renewed resolve to make changes for the better.

The start of a new year gives many of us a sense of beginning again and closing the chapter on our past mistakes and shortcomings. In these instances, we look joyously ahead to the future and we embrace the new year as an opportunity for moving forward and leaving the past behind. This usual experience of the start of a new year is severely complicated when the grip of grief has taken a hold of us.

Grief has gripped many of us in different ways. Our losses may differ or share similarities, as may our experience of the pain of them. We may feel unable to look forward, never mind to move forward as we are faced with a new year without our loved ones or other losses. We may be tempted to try and cut off our grief deciding that it’s time to move on and to stop crying, feeling sad, angry, or afraid.

There may be people around us always at the ready to “do something” with these emotions when we experience them. This may be because others can be uncomfortable with where we are and so they feel the need to move us to a different place even before we are able, ready, or even want to.

Sometimes we begin to take from that the message that we ought to try and “do something” with our emotional expression as well. This can create a kind of internal battle in which we are fighting against our own experience to stop feeling whatever we are feeling. I’ve learned that this only ensures that it sticks around longer and likely makes matters worse.

As we face this new year with our hearts heavy with grief, we should consider giving ourselves permission to be right where we are, feeling sad, angry, and/or afraid. It is a natural, normal, and useful part of our journey.

We are resilient, and resilience comes not from the absence of pain and heartache from the losses and struggles in life, but it comes as a result of enduring them. This year, let’s resolve to notice and make room for our pain, tears, anger, and sadness. Let’s embrace our emotional expression as a necessary part of learning to adjust to our changing lives while honoring those and that which we have lost.

In loving dedication to all the lives taken in Newtown, Connecticut and all those in our own and neighboring communities. ... Be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.

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