The Best Ways to Say Goodbye to a Difficult Year

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What are the best ways to say goodbye to a difficult year?

I am writing this post at the end of 2020, a year which put our vulnerabilities and needs for change in the spotlight.

Regardless of your circumstances, a worldwide pandemic plays on all of our emotions and mostly negative ones. Maybe you are still grieving over another year that turned your life upside down.

The question is, though, are there ways to use difficult years to move into the future productively?

I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t believe it was possible…  

Posted: December 27, 2020

Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, all information and reflections are meant for educational purposes only. If you plan to make changes in your life, it may be worth consulting with loved ones and/or your wellness team. Also, this post may contain affiliate links for products I enjoy using and when making a purchase through those links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


For some, this was the worst year of their lives and for others, it wasn’t even close.

Unanticipated twists and turns can come at any moment, sometimes in overwhelming waves. The reality is, it isn’t that particular year that caused the chaos, but the digits represent a way to identify those difficult 365 days.

In all of the struggles, though, there are bits of good mixed in and lessons to be learned.

It would be lovely to have more positives than negatives and avoid personal tragedy, but if it has already happened, all we can do is find ways to cope with it.

As much as if feels good to leave the past behind and write the year off as a loss, do we usually leave relationships, scenarios or other life happenings without reflection? Maybe yes, but in many cases, no.

Here are some ways to not only say goodbye to a difficult year, but do it in a way that is healthy and potentially beneficial for your mental wellness.

What Good Came This Year?

You may have already considered leaving this post, but please stick with me.

Gratitude is highly linked with life satisfaction and general well-being (Corona et al., 2020), but I am not asking for this type of positive reflection.

Some bad years involve severe anxiety, depression, grief or other conditions that make the idea of positive emotions feel impossible.

I am simply asking you to make a list some good things that happened either to you, for you or in your environment. Go through each month and rack your brain for kind gestures and small accomplishments.

You do not need to consider thanks or try to think of happy moments, but if you do, it would be an added bonus!

What are some of the added wins of gratitude? Those who use regular gratitude exercises have higher levels of self-esteem, less loneliness and less perceived stress (Corona et al., 2020).

Writing helps solidify the better things that happened during the year, so it is worth a try.

What Learning Came This Year?

Please know that I am not referring to the “everything happens for a reason” mentality. I want you to realize that you are a survivor of adversity.

In a story about the Greek warrior, Philoctetes, he experienced abandonment, pain and anger while learning to cope with limitations and tragedy (Gagnon, 2016). What was the ultimate perception once the darkness began to ease? Strength, triumph, perseverance and accomplishment. Philoctetes acknowledged his wounds and utilized the lessons for growth.

So, reflect on this question; did you learn anything from your difficult year?

  • Some examples could be the importance of family or discovered independence.
  • Another may be related to setting money aside or how to cope after making difficult decisions.
  • Did you learn more about your own culture or that of others?
  • Maybe you missed an opportunity and have found ways to be prepared for the next offering.

How Will You Use The Learning?

I keep making you work, don’t I? This is work to help with your well-being, so you’ll reap benefits in the end. No guarantees, but there is a good chance.

It is time to plan for obstacles or identify situations to avoid. If there is a way to better prepare yourself for difficult times or show more appreciation for the present, reflect on how you will accomplish those goals.

Lessons are related to finding meaning within our struggles and meaning is a major factor contributing to well-being, too (Seligman, 2013).

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Success In a Difficult Year

It is important I touch on the people who had wonderful things happen during a time of disruption.

Are feeling guilty because it was a horrible year for others, but not for you?

No matter how painful your surroundings may have been, it is so important to savor and celebrate the awesome moments.

You’ve had your own hard times, so to limit your excitement is harmful. Who benefits from stifled positive emotions?

There may need to be some mindfulness when it comes to who you share your happiness with and timing is important, but do not feel guilty for your wins!

Easier said than done, I know. But if you can find a way to give yourself permission to savour the good times, you’re wellbeing will improve.

We all deserve positive happenings in our lives.

Making Cuts

The last piece is to find ways to let go of things or people who are not worth your energy any longer.

Think to yourself, what could I say goodbye to going that would improve my life?

This part is probably the hardest out of all the other suggestions because that means having to grieve some losses or admit defeat. These are not necessarily bad things, as long as you do not beat yourself up about the process.

One of my favourite sayings is “Failure is constructive feedback…” -Iowdu Koyenikan.

Whether a business endeavour, broken relationship or something not meeting your expectations…

Reflect on your needs, make some tough decisions, process the emotions, and brainstorm ways to rock your next chapter!


No one has to do these suggestions, but these are some of the best ways to say goodbye to a difficult year…

Maybe you’ve already done all of these and this post just solidified your healthy coping.

If you do or you don’t, I truly with you all the best in your endeavours. Whether you feel New Year’s Eve is a new beginning or just a great time to let go of a rough year, I am rooting for everyone in finding well-being!


Corona, K., Senft, N., Campos, B., Chen, C., Shiota, M., & Chentsova-Dutton, Y. E. (2020). Ethnic variation in gratitude and well-being. Emotion20(3), 518–524.


Gagnon, J. M. (2016). Lessons in suffering: Greek tragedy’s teachings on disability through Sophocles’ Philoctetes. New Political Science38(3), 335–353.


Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Atria Paperback.

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