“Farewell to 2020”
Most of the people I speak with are ready to say “goodbye” to 2020. It’s been a difficult year, to say the least. Although, as a counselor, I have one more suggestion before we say our farewell. Let’s take a moment to name our losses.
On December 21, we observed the longest night of the year by offering a special worship service for those who have experienced loss in the past year. As I watched the service, I remembered the importance of “naming all our losses” as author Dan Moseley suggests in his book, “Lose, Love, Live.” (This is the book we will use when the Grief Support Group begins again on January 13.)
Watching worship online is a wonderful option when we cannot meet in person and yet, the absence of in-person worship is one of the losses I struggle with as 2020 draws to a close.
In the Longest Night Worship Service, all three of our pastors sat in a circle on the stage. Lead Pastor Yvi Martin. Associate Pastor Britton Fields. Associate Pastor Choongho Kwon, who is in charge of Care Ministry and who put this service together. They were joined on the stage by Worship Director Mat Thornton and Music Director Walter Bryant, who sat at the piano. In this quiet circle, each pastor and Mat took turns lighting the Advent candles. As they lit a candle, they named a loss.
We mourn the loss of Life.
“A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”
The first candle represented all the lives lost this year. Loved ones. People we knew. Strangers we will never know. Loss of life due to COVID-19. Lives lost due to other causes yet during a season when we could not even be with them as they left this world.
We mourn the loss of Livelihood.
“How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day?”
The second candle represented jobs lost. Hours and wages cut back. The dream that, “If I just work hard enough, I’ll be able to take care of myself,” fading away. Learning to rely on others becoming more and more of a necessity.
We mourn the loss of Love.
“God, listen! Listen to my prayer, listen to the pain in my cries. Don’t turn your back on me just when I need you so desperately. Pay attention! This is a cry for help!”
The third candle represented the apparent loss of love surrounding us. Our ability to love one another, in spite of our differences, was severely challenged this year. Politics and violence were a tiny piece of that. Being stuck at home with each other 24/7 was an even greater test. Our hearts and our motives were laid bare for a season.
We mourn the loss of Liveliness.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
The fourth candle represented our weariness. Joy overshadowed by doubt and fear. The balance of good news with bad news seemingly tipped on its side. The struggle of those who were caring for others to find time to care for themselves.
As I listened to the naming of losses, I remembered this as a simple practice from our Grief Support Group. Every loss carries with it multiple dimensions. The loss of a spouse isn’t just the loss of the physical person. It’s the loss of a companion, a handyman, the bill payer, a confidante, your biggest supporter, the jokester, your technician, your walking companion and so much more.
So as you say farewell to 2020, take a moment and name your specific losses. Write them down. Did you lose a loved one? Was there a job loss or change? What about social connections? Or free time (a loss if you are a parent who now has to spend more time teaching your child)? Name your losses. Be as specific as possible.
This practice helps us in several ways. As you name your losses, the pain loses its power over you. Naming also validates the impact of the loss. For instance, that quiet time you gave up in order to help your children with their schoolwork, may have been what helped you feel grounded and centered. No, it is not the same as the loss of a loved one. It is still a loss. And it makes a difference in how you manage yourself throughout your day.
Finally, by naming the loss it opens us up to the possibility of healing.
So, take some time to name your losses from 2020.
Now let go. On a separate piece of paper write a simple farewell note to 2020. And then choose your own way of saying goodbye. I enjoy the sound of a shredder. The noise and watching the paper disappear help me feel completely disconnected from whatever I am trying to let go of. Others enjoy the act of ripping the paper up. You may want to wrap it in a small box and bury the note out in the backyard, giving it a funeral ceremony.
The candle in the middle of the Advent wreath was also lit in the Longest Night Worship Service. The fifth candle. This candle represents Light. As we say farewell to 2020, may we welcome in the light. May we trust in the words of Isaiah 41:31:
“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Farewell to 2020. May hope and light abide in your hearts as 2021 opens its doors.