Three New Year’s Rituals to Set You Free

lightschristmasThis month (it aired on December 21st) on CBC Radio One where I’m the resident Life Coaching Columnist I talked about how to use the end of the year as a time to say goodbye and how to say hello using intentions, rather than resolutions. You can read about intention setting for New Years here. If you missed the show, you can hear Sheryl and I in conversation in the podcast here-the show was December 20th and our conversation is about 8:50 into the podcast.

In amongst the warmth of the Christmas season and the lights that endlessly twinkle, there is a bite in the air. It’s the nip of winter. One only needs to look beyond the tinsel strung through the streets to notice that the trees are bare. The leaves have fallen.   The solstice is upon us and with it the longest night of the year.

If we notice the natural cycle of nature we can be reminded that we too are part of that cycle. Nothing in our lives, or nature, is on some endless growth cycle. Life isn’t one long self-improvement plan. The end of the year doesn’t just mean a party for ringing in the New Year with drinks and resolutions. It is also the end of a year. Time to say goodbye.


How do I know what to say good-bye to?


Take a look at any garden and think about what is an annual and what is a perennial. Your life is the same. Some things in your life are in winter. Dead and cold to the touch right now, they might be resting, and wintergardenthey will bloom again in some future spring time or perhaps they might have spent their life’s energy and be ready for composting. In terms of your life, that might be a relationship.  Is it dead? you broke up or divorced? Or are you out of a relationship and thinking about a new one in the future? Or it could be a way of  seeing yourself.  Do you see yourself as less than or not enough in an aspect of your life?  Or what about a lost activity? A sport that has left your life due to injury that you may or may not be able to return to.  Annual? or perennial? If it is an annual and dead, New Years is an excellent time to deal with it.  For the health of the garden, your peace of mind, dig that thing up and throw it in the composter.   I love taking the junk of my life and rather than ​steeping in regret, ​I compost it.



The Value of Composting our Life Experiences


Vietnamese Buddhist teacher named Thich Nhat Hanh said that when you look at a rose, you have to see the garbage, because that’s where it’s going when it dies.  When you look at the garbage, you have to see the rose. Because it’s in there. Waiting.

Goodbyes can move stuff into your emotional composter where something good can come out of something that feels bad. Your garbage can hold the rose, just as the rose can hold your garbage.

What is ready for composting?

Three places to look

  1. An old fear. Where in your life can you give yourself credit? Maybe you tried something new, stepped up in a way you don’t usually.  If you know where you are proud of yourself in the past year, you can say goodbye to a fear or a an old story about yourself that previously held you back. For example: Hurray stepping up to speak at that wedding and maybe and goodbye to the fear that I would never be brave enough to do that.
  2. An old hurt. Where in your life did something end and it feels like unfinished business? For example: Being fired or a sudden end to a love affair. You might not have been able to take the time to actually process this event, but it lurks at the edges of your mind.  You are tired of suffering with this.
  3. I’m ready to move on. It’s about something in your life you want to say goodbye to. For example, it might be arrividerci to letting my health go through poor choices in food or lack of exercise. Goodbye to putting myself last and least or to being such a perfectionist.  You recognize this is an old habit that doesn’t serve you anymore.



Three Rituals that help you move on


Funeral,Retirement Party or just Shred it?


Once you know what you are saying goodbye to, choose one of these three rituals.


A funeral– you are going to say goodbye to something in a funeral service you create. You might be sad or angry for this one. Whichever it is, it’s dead and done and isn’t coming back.

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-Sing songs or play music that speaks to you (

– You can bury an object that represents what you are getting rid of. ​Even putting the word on a card and burying that will count.


A Retirement Party– this is for something that you felt served you well, but it’s time for it go. You feel fond and grateful for the service it gave you. It’s time to say goodbye and give it a good send off.

​You can haveretirement

-Tribute speeches.

‘​Thanks for all that go-go-go but I’m retired now and I don’t have to be that person anymore.’

-A symbolic gift of farewell, the proverbial watch for service. A bouquet of flowers, a framed photo that symbolizes when this was good, a nice meal in a festive atmosphere.

Burn/Bury/ Shred-Think ‘Goodbye and good riddance’. This is a ritual for something you are so done with you can’t say goodbye fast enough. Go for the quick and dirty option-burn it, bury it, shred it.

What you might use

-Photocopies of photos or the real thing

-Images from papers and magazines that represent this event or feeling.

-Write down what you always wanted to say, no holds barred, shout it into a pillow or wait for an empty house and vent




-Dance it out

-Destroy utterly


Remember: The more fully you perform this ritual, the more effective it is and actually assisting you in letting go.

Also Remember: These rituals don’t eradicate this from your life, but they do offer a chance to change your relationship. What we resist, persists.


Personal story: When I performed a funeral ritual extensively for something in myself, I came out the other end feeling less angry and more spacious. The biggest surprise of all was that I went into it with a lot of anger. But as I prepared the eulogy, I discovered there was so much good I had forgotten. The funeral was bittersweet rather than hit the road. I look back on that time now with some fondness rather than just a kind of soul eating regret.



  1. Reflect on the year and decide what is finished. It could be something you ended, that was cut short or that you are ready now to say goodbye to.
  2. When you look for the thing to say goodbye to, look at relationships, jobs and also ways of being (perfectionist/workaholic/hiding in Netflix or gaming instead of living your life)
  3. Choose the ritual that will be most powerful in saying goodbye
  4. Make it big. Flesh out the ritual with music, poetry, guests if you like, speeches, real objects to represent what is going.
  5. Remember that you are composting and from this garbage, you can grow something wonderful.



If you want some help going into the New Year with your ‘composting’, send me a note. I have a special offer for December for Composting Rituals. Click here for details.













1 Comment Three New Year’s Rituals to Set You Free

  1. Andrew Schick

    Those are some very unique techniques to apply Rebecca! I like the idea of a funeral for things that you’re letting go of, it’s like you’re putting to rest your insecurities and/or fears. It almost subconsciously removes the thought from your mind or gives you permission to let it go, what a great idea!

    Great article and great points. We should connect! Come check me out by searching “Toronto life coach ” on Google. Keep up the inspiring work!


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