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5 Ways to Say Goodbye to 2020

December 24, 2020

When Twitter recently asked folks to describe 2020 in one word, the responses flooded in. Here are some of the words that stood out to me: Restless. Pain. Sourdough. Masks. Ouch. Skip. Tired. Damaged. Delete. While I was scrolling through the responses, I could feel the collective sigh over the pain folks have experienced this year. (Although, I should mention that a large amount of the responses make reference to BTS, the Korean pop sensation! If you know, you know!). Perhaps you have used these words, or even the ever popular term “dumpster fire,” when describing this year. What a year it’s been!

Who would have guessed back in March that this COVID-19 season would last so long? Who knew that we’d still be so isolated? Who knew that there would be so much division and conflict adding emotional tension for all of us? For many, you’ve experienced profound grief when COVID-19 came unwelcomed to your doorstep. Perhaps you’ve experienced financial instability or watched a relationship crumble. For most of us, it’s been more the sense of an ambiguous grief that comes from having to cancel birthdays and weddings and graduations and holiday after holiday. It has truly been a year filled with real and deep sorrows.

But we also saw the streets full of humbled hearts pushing for change with anti-racist cries, people wearing masks just to love on their neighbors, and countless front-line and essential workers tirelessly working in hospitals and in grocery stores to dutifully provide for us. And then there are the teachers and parents with school-aged children who found new strength and creativity to make it work. Whoa!

Before we turn the calendar page with hopeful hearts that 2021 will look different, I want to encourage you to take a moment to pause and reflect on this past year. I don’t want to be a person who just wants to put a positive spin on things, but I do want to ask you to join me in looking for the light shining in the darkness this season. Here are some ways to organize those thoughts.

5 Ways to Say Goodbye to 2020:

Grieve It. Put into words what was difficult during the past year. You may want to forcefully shut the door on this year and look forward to something better in 2021, but giving space to the grief and losses of this year can be a powerful experience. Can you give yourself some time this month to reflect on the past year and name aloud the challenges you’ve faced? If that feels overwhelming, ask a friend to join in, or talk through it with your therapist.

Embrace the Slow. In past years, this final push through the holiday season towards January can feel like  the busiest time of year for some people. However, for the majority of us, we’re halted from the “normal” pace this year. I know we’re weary of having to stay home and colder weather in the North means we’re more homebound, but can we pause to notice that we can be unhurried in this season? For people of faith, we can often allow the meaning of the holidays to get lost in the frenzy of the season. Could this be a time to slow down and lean in and connect more deeply to the true meaning of the holidays? Maybe this is the year to try out some new traditions: finally bake that family recipe you never had time to make or call that cousin you haven’t talked to in ages. Personally, I know my family won’t be traveling like we typically do for Christmas. That’s painful, but also intriguing to think about waking up in my own home on Christmas morning. I’m looking forward to the uniqueness of that.

Celebrate. Of course, we know ‘tis the season to celebrate, but you may not feel like you have the strength or desire to do so. I hesitate to use the word celebrate when so many are grieving unthinkable losses. However, even if tragedy came close to home, we can still celebrate the passing of a really hard year. You’re here. You’ve made it.

Write it down. We are people who easily forget. I know we all believe that there are things this year we’ll never forget. But we will. And maybe we want to forget some of the more difficult things that this season brought, but I encourage you to consider writing down (even a bullet list) the things you learned or appreciated about this season. Your future self will thank you.

Consider what you want to take with you. Again, there were some positives this year. We are people who get hurried and busy quickly. When the vaccine comes, or when we learn how to deal with COVID-19 with more ease, life will pick up and the busyness will settle back in. What traditions in the slowness would you like to bring with you into 2021 and beyond? Maybe it was eating together more often as a family than you used to. Or perhaps you’d like to continue that Zoom date with friends you rarely get to see.  Thoughtfully consider what you’re planning to take with you into this new year.

These are just some suggestions, but the greatest invitation is to pause and take notice. Again, it’s been a year worth reflecting on. Sending long, slow, and steady deep breaths to you and yours.

Jamie Rose, MAC, MFT is a staff therapist at our University City Office; she currently sees clients via online therapy. To set-up an appointment, you can reach her at jrose@councilforrelationships.org or 215-382-6680 ext. 7020.