The new year always brings a sense of anticipation, doesn’t it? Along with the scent of winter and the newness of holiday gifts, we experience desire for good things in our lives. Sometimes, particularly when we’re grieving, the new year also brings a sense of sadness, pining for who and what is gone from our lives.
People often try to address such anticipation with resolutions for making their lives better. All well and good. But resolutions can be difficult to keep. Each January, for example, I watch new people come to the pool where I regularly swim. I know they’re intending to get more fit and to feel better about themselves. The lanes become crowded and we jostle for space. I know this crowding won’t last long, though. In two or three weeks, many of those people will have given up swimming as their new sport. While I’m glad to have a lane to myself again, I feel a bit sad that people who may have wanted swimming in their lives weren’t able to make it a habit.
Resolutions are like that. When we’re grieving, sticking to a resolution can be even harder.
For years now, I’ve been participating in a New Year’s tradition that doesn’t require wrapping myself up in impossible-to-keep resolutions. The idea is to find just one word that most sums up what you would like to bring to your life in the new year. This word is both a simple and profound way to move consciously into a year of possibility.
I use my word as a daily reminder to continually grow. For example, when I started this practice in 2015, my word was surrender, which taught me about letting go of the notion that I could pick and choose my world. I found the concept of surrender to be challenging because giving up a false sense of control forced me to remember that as a human, I can change only a few of my life’s circumstances. That includes my losses from deaths and other transitions.
The next year, my word was listen. This word reminded me to stop, be quiet, and really hear what people (and the world) were saying. I learned not to fill in the blanks of what I thought people were saying—or what I wanted them to say—and hear them at deeper levels. My sense of compassion grew.
I did more than just remember these words. During the year, I thought about their meanings, read about them, used them in conversations, and put them into action.
Although surrender and listen are simple words, I found their effects to be positive and helpful. Other recent words were breathe, create, and manifest.
In 2019, I managed to manifest for myself three completed book manuscripts and a boat! To my great grief, I’ve since needed to sell that boat, but I had it for a while, fulfilling one of my life goals. My word for 2020 was grace, which I desperately needed with three spinal surgeries in 15 days, 28 days in the hospital, and months of healing afterward. In 2021, my word was mercy, which I learned I could only manifest for others after I have given it to myself.
Last year, my word was hope, which is a word I’ve noticed a number of people choosing—probably because we live in such a rapidly changing and sometimes frightening world. I spent much of the year trying to define hope for myself and to help others to find hope (stay tuned for a blog about hope in an upcoming newsletter!).
My word of the year helps me to make meaningful changes. Each year’s word shows me the richness of my life’s experiences and the interconnectedness of all things. Then, I continue to incorporate that word in my life, accumulating each word’s wisdom and power into the upcoming years.
My word for 2023 is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
In 2023, I’ll focus on envisioning, enacting, receiving, and offering the truth that God always is with humanity, that we’re never alone. Like a tractor beam, the Creator pulls us toward Eternal Love. I’ll work with Emmanuel in my spiritual, personal, and professional lives. But I can only manifest that end by surrendering, listening, breathing, (re)creating, and embodying grace, mercy, and hope.
Whether you’re grieving or support bereaved people, I encourage you to consider a word-of-the-year practice. What word expresses something you want for your life in 2023?
I wish a happy and healthy New Year to you and yours!