Trigger warning: Child loss, pregnancy loss, infertility
The New Year is upon us and a collective sigh of relief can be heard from around the globe. No matter who you are, or where you live, this year has been, well, fucked. So how do you end off a year that has brought you to your knees? As someone with experience in that department, I’m here to offer my tips.
First, my qualifications. Over the past five years, I’ve been dealt a series of very bad hands.
In 2015, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, went into remission, got pregnant with my first baby, and lost said baby and a fallopian tube to an ectopic pregnancy. I spent 2016 living my life two weeks at a time between ovulating and waiting to find out if I was pregnant. For about a week out of every month I spent every morning in a crowded fertility clinic, to the point that my arms looked like pincushions from all of the bloodwork and, well, let’s just say I no longer refer to my parts as “private.”
2017 brought me my first son, only to take him away from me shortly after he was born. And 2018 brought me my second little boy, who was born so early and so sick that we spent almost half the year in the hospital watching him fight for his life.
2019 was actually relatively low-key, but anxiety and PTSD set up shop in the cracks that years of heartache and trauma had left behind.
I’ve spent the last four New Year’s Eves with a desperate desire for the outgoing year to take with it the giant weight on my shoulders, and for the incoming year to bring some levity. I’ve tried all manner of approaches. I’ve surrounded myself with carefree, happy people and drank myself into a stupor big enough to convince them, and myself, that I fit in. I’ve thrown myself a pity party and let the tears flow as the ball dropped. I’ve cursed the world and threatened the universe that it better bring me a good year…or else. I’ve gone to bed at 10pm and ignored it all together.
Whether you’re feeling optimistic about the year ahead, or fearful that the curse of 2020 will continue into the new year, here is my hard-earned advice on how to bid adieu to this shit magnet of a year.
Actually say goodbye.
It’s impossible to leave all of the emotional baggage behind, but you sure can try. Saying goodbye doesn’t mean you have to forget it ever happened, or “move on”. It just means that you won’t let it hold you back. Reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly, take note of how it impacted you and changed you, for better or for worse, and try to move forward.
Ask yourself what 2020 took from you. Time with friends and family, your well laid plans for the year, your sense of safety and security. Say goodbye to it all. For those that have experienced the worst that this year has had to offer – sickness, loss of loved ones, trauma – the scars left by 2020 may stay with you forever. Say goodbye to the year but honour your journey, honour your pain, honour your story. And look for ways to move into 2021 with a plan of how to manage and how to cope with all that the year took from you.
Me, I plan to write it all down and burn the list to the ground as the clock strikes midnight. And start my year off with my favorite Zoom buddy, my therapist. Join me, will you?
Take some time to appreciate the positives that the year brought.
In 2017 I went through the unimaginable: I held my son in my arms as he took his last breath. It’s the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But 2017 is also the year that he was born. The year I became a mom. I refuse to let his short but beautiful life be eclipsed by his death. So when I rang out that year, you better believe I said goodbye and good riddance. But I also said thank you.
2020 sucked, but there were also many positives. Yes, it was really hard to juggle a full-time job with a needy toddler during the lockdown, but I got time with my son that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Yes, I miss hugging my friends and family, but the Zoom effect has led me to reconnect with amazing people from my past who live in different cities and countries. And sure, it sucks that I never leave the house, but I’ve always hated wearing pants anyways.
As you near December 31, make a list of what 2020 brought you, like a newfound ability to adapt, an appreciation for safe spaces, your collection of leggings. Focus on the things that came into your life that were wonderful and beautiful and carry them with you into the new year.
Manage your expectations.
It’s easy to have extremely high hopes for an incoming year at the best of times, but when you’ve had a really crappy year, you’re almost desperate for good times ahead. As the clock struck midnight to ring in 2016, I exhaled the biggest sigh of relief, because it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Well, it did. Lightning can strike twice, folks.
So as we ring out 2020, I encourage you to have hope for an amazing year, but don’t let high expectations prevent you from experiencing the joy amongst the pain if things don’t go exactly according to plan. For years I would only buy loose-fitting clothes, because the next year was going to be the year when I became a big pregnant lady. I spent years holding my breath, waiting for my happy ending, and I forgot to enjoy the life that I had.
2021 brings with it the promise of mass vaccination, the hope for a return to some aspects of pre-pandemic life, and the tides of political and hopefully social change. There’s a lot to be hopeful and excited for. But if 2020 taught us nothing else, it’s that you never know what might be around the corner. So stride into the year with gusto, enjoy the trip, but don’t forget to watch your step.
I’m not saying you can’t make plans or resolutions, but make yourself purposeful goals and don’t overwhelm yourself with a huge list of how you’ll change the world in 2021. Keep your expectations reasonable and don’t forget to celebrate every achievement, every milestone, every goal you check off your list, no matter how seemingly small.
Say it with me now: “So long 2020, I’ll never forget you, but fuck off.”