How to Help a Friend Who Doesn't Want to Ring in the New Year

Words by Aubrey Mathis

10,9,8,7...3.2.1 and with the drop of a ball, and a kiss on the lips the old familiar tune begins to play and we all begin to sing along “should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?”

It's a cheerful scene, the gathering of friends and family bidding farewell to the year that passed and welcoming the year to come. It's exciting and full of optimism, hope and resolutions.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” These lyrics are so joyful yet so sad at the same time.

For many of us, the thought of a new beginning is a superficial high that slowly begins to fade mid-February after a few small attempts to keep the resolutions we made in January - all the while knowing it really did not matter that much if they were not kept as we have been making the same ones for years now.  But oh how the month of December has us anxiously waiting for the strike of midnight on January 1st, the resounding sound of what was and what's to come.

However for some, the sound of the clock striking midnight is deep and painful and dark. It's the sound of an ending and for many the crackling of sparklers doesn’t represent the flame of a new love but the end of a marriage. The thought of a new beginning is terrifying, not exciting.  Perhaps the clinging of champagne glasses is not the horrah of new possibilities but the crippling sound of chemo and sickness.  The sight of a ball dropping from above isn't the sign of a new life but the reminder of a life taken too soon.

I remember the first Christmas after my friends baby was made an angel, thinking that Christmas would be so hard for her.  I didn't once think about how the New Year was going to affect her, because a New Year means happiness, right!? After talking with her one day she told me how much she was dreading New Years Eve.  I assumed, like me, she doesn't relish in the thought of big crowds and parties you don't really want to attend. So what did I do? I gave her the advice I thought she wanted to hear and told her that maybe she should stay home and ring in the New Year quietly. That is when it hit me, that is not at all what she was saying to me. What she was saying was “She did not want to RING in the New Year.” The beginning of the new year meant to her the end of her son's year.  As painful as the year was, it was like having to say goodbye all over again to her baby. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” The thought that her precious son would be forgotten because “his” year was coming to an end and people were excited for the New Year to begin was heartbreaking.

To answer the question Robert Burns poetically asked back in 1788 “ Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” The answer is No. We should not forget the past and never bring it back to mind.  We must remember it and we must take time during the New Year festivities to acknowledge those who are having a difficult time moving into a new year in fear that the old year will be forgotten.

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Here are a few ways to help your loved through this emotional time.

Acknowledge their feelings

Let them know it's okay to be sad about the beginning of a New Year.  They don't have to mask it with party streamers and confetti.

Write them a letter to be opened at 12:01 am on January 1st.

Include the name of the loved one they may have said goodbye to and reassure them they will never be forgotten.

Do a good deed in honor of the past year.

Something like buying someones coffee.  Leave a note that says something like “Because Natalie made an impact on me in 2015, 2016 I will continue her impact in 2017”.

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While the New Year is full of hope and possibility and a chance for new beginnings, so is every morning you wake up.  So celebrate everyday!


Aubrey is the over caffeinated mom of two little girls, wife to a professional rodeo cowboy and is terrified of of horses. You can find her writing blogs in the bleachers at a rodeo while cheering on her husband or obsessing over red lipstick. Changing the way we acknowledge grief by blending compassion and comedic relief is her jam and her motto in life is Be the Reason!



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