-Kristin Hernandez

Gold confetti, champagne bubbles, and excited grins pierced my aching heart like knives as I scrolled through social media. The entire world welcomed 2016 with open arms–not just welcomed, but celebrated it–and I wasn’t ready to move forward. My son was born and had died in 2015. There was no dash between years on his headstone as there should have been. My entire pregnancy and his short little life had all been crammed into that year and I didn’t want to step forward, let alone throw a party over it.

New Year’s Day can be blindsiding when you’ve lost a baby. In December, many of us brace ourselves for the social gatherings, the unfulfilled traditions, and the constant reminders of the empty seat at our holiday tables. We breathe a sigh of relief as the holiday season draws to a close, only to be faced with the unexpectedly difficult transition of leaving another year behind without our children.

So how do we step into a new year and into this “new normal” when a piece of our heart is missing? What resolutions can we set for ourselves when we may not even know which way is forward?

Make a list of things you are thankful for in the previous year. As we transitioned into 2016, I resolved to write down the blessings that had come in 2015. At first, I could hardly come up with one thing, but as I began to write my teary eyes began to shine with pride and gratitude. Perhaps the previous year made you a mother, even if it came with struggle and sorrow. Perhaps you learned something about yourself, gained deeper relationships, or witnessed personal growth in your own life. Let’s take some time to be thankful for these changes and to acknowledge that the best gifts are not always the most comfortable.

Acknowledge that it is hard. Take time to mourn what you are leaving behind in 2017, whether it’s a loved one, a dream, or a part of yourself. Give yourself permission to feel, to grieve, to care for your heart and to set healthy boundaries. Give yourself some grace.

Don’t be afraid to make resolutions for 2018. It was especially difficult to make plans the following year after Ethan died, but I found it helpful to have something positive to look forward to. Start a blog, join a 5K (Forever Footprints hosts an annual memorial Walk To Remember every October), join a support group (Forever Footprints hosts groups in Long Beach, Orange and Chino,) finally try those recipes you’ve been pinning for years, or take the first step toward a personal dream.

Remember that moving forward isn’t the same as “moving on”. Embracing the new year does not mean that we are “forgetting” or “moving on”. It does not mean that we love our babies any less. Moving forward happens when we take all of the love and the pain we’ve faced and allow it to refine us and make us better. It happens when we open our hearts to more love (and potentially more heartache), free of guilt. It doesn’t simply slap on a smile, but rather it acknowledges both the joy and grief we’ve experienced as we step forward to live authentically and leave a positive legacy.

Whether 2018 fills your heart with excitement, sadness, or a little of both, we’re all in this together. Wishing you and your family a wonderful new year.