The passing of a new year is of course something worth celebrating, but it is also something that can trigger grief. Every new turn of the calendar adds to the time after someone you love has passed. It causes an internal countdown — has it really been that long? Often this can re-ignite dormant grief, of make recent losses feel even more profound.

 

Recently I heard someone talk about regression to the mean, a concept in statistics that states that if a variable is extreme on the first measurement, it will be closer to the average on the second (and vice versa). How I understand it from a clinical standpoint is that all things in life — the very big moments either good or bad — eventually return to a sort of baseline. The baseline itself may change over time, but the mean, the average, the day-to-day — we all come back to it eventually.

What I tell my clients is that if you want to see your overall progress toward something, you can’t look at a single data point — a single good day or bad day. You have to look at the trend over time to see if it’s moving in the right direction.

Grief, and the progress made adjusting to it, can’t be seen in a single day or single moment. It is something that happens over time, and with enough time, the acute pain of it is felt less often. The other kinds of day, ones filled with joy, or even just contentment, happen more often. The moments, added up and divided by the good ones and the hard ones, show an average of “good” over time.

In the meantime, it can help to focus on the best memories of your lost loved one(s), and recognize that it’s okay to both be sad AND seek out joy and happiness. That’s you can look forward to the future while still missing a huge part of your past.

If you are the type to make New Year’s Resolutions. may I suggest that one of them is to give yourself time. Time to grieve, time to heal, time to breathe, time to sleep, time to create, time to just be.

 

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