The Coming End

This week seems to be a time out of time, when people are concentrating on the year to come, planning New Year’s Eve events, making resolutions (or at least thinking of making them), and even shopping at year-end sales in preparation for next year’s needs. Like everyone else, that’s generally how I’ve thought of this time — as a few extra days tacked on to the end of the real year in preparation for the next real year.

Despite all that focus on the future, there are a few days left of this year, time enough to hurry up and finally do some of the things you resolved to do when this year was new, and time enough to celebrate the remaining days because every day should be a day to celebrate, if only that we are still alive.

Oddly, for the first time in my life, I am very aware of this year coming to an end. I can actually feel a sense of finality, though I’m not sure whether it’s for the year itself or for some as yet unknown experience. I don’t in any way think that I am prescient; this feeling of an end could be what I originally intimated — that the year (and only the year) is coming to an end. The feeling could also be due to my spending so much time alone and hence able to feel some sort of change in the atmosphere. (A change in weather is coming, that’s for sure — there won’t be any of these balmy winter days for a while.)

But what do I know. Not much, really. I do know that all things end, whether it is a day, a month, a season, a year. And yet years don’t really end, now that I think about it; they just roll over into a new calendar year with no clear demarcation between the end and the beginning, the old and the new (except for a new calendar, of course.) We’re still the same, though I wonder what it would be like if those resolutions could be actual changes, not just feeble plans to make changes that so quickly dissipate in the sameness of the new year.

To be honest, I’m not sure many of us could handle real changes, to wake up on January first, suddenly fit and healthy, disciplined and kind, rich and satisfied, or whatever it is that we wish we were that we aren’t. I suppose it’s healthier in the long run to realize we are who we are, with an ability (or rather an inability) to make any significant changes to ourselves or our lives from one year to the next, though changes do happen.

Maybe that’s the “end” I feel so acutely right now — the end of hoping to be the person I wish I were and a greater acceptance of the person I am.

Or it could be, as I said, that the feeling of “end” is nothing more significant than a simple awareness that this is the end of the year, a thing in itself, not a prelude to something else.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Grieving the End of This Year

I’ve been doing well, continuing on with my life after the death of my life mate/soul mate, and then suddenly, here I am, awash in tears again. I had no idea why this would be so, until I found out that so many others in my grief age group — those whose mates died in 2010 — are also going through an upsurge of grief. And now I know what triggered the tears, though I don’t know why.

The body/mind/soul remembers dates, anniversaries, emotional occasions long after the conscious mind has forgotten, which is why I know when Saturday (the day of his death) is coming around again — I can feel the sadness creeping up on me the day before. He died late Friday night or early Saturday morning depending on how you look at it, and my body seems to look at it both ways. But this upsurge in sadness has nothing to do with Friday or Saturday, or even with Christmas.

For those in my grief age group, this was our second Christmas without our loved ones. It was harder this year for some of us than our first Christmas without, perhaps because the truth is settling into our souls, and we know there will never be another Christmas with them no matter how much we yearn for it. (For this very reason, the second year of grief is sometimes harder than the first. The physical and psychical pain isn’t as great, but the emotional shock that protected us has worn off and the truth that they are never coming back has taken root along with a great clawing yearning to see them one more time.)

We’ve survived most of our firsts — the first birthday without, the first summer, the first Halloween, the first Thanksgiving, the first anniversary of their death — and now one more first is almost upon us. We are coming to the end of the first full calendar year without them.

Why would this ending be an occasion for an upsurge of grief? I don’t know. It’s particularly strange for me since I don’t see anything special about a new year — it’s such an arbitrary date — but apparently my internal datekeeper has made a note of it. And now I am grieving the end of this year, this first full calendar year without him.