Columnist Lorraine Murray discovered the healing power of singing by rehearsing Christmas songs with the Chancel Choir at the First Baptist Church in Avondale Estates. CONTRIBUTED BY JIM WHATELY

Lessons learned from the worst year of my life

In days of old, my New Year’s resolutions were predictable: exercise more, eat less and tame my unruly finances.

But as 2017 dawns, rather than making future promises — which are quickly broken — I’m reflecting on the past year’s lessons.

Let’s start with the fact that it was definitely the worst year of my entire life — since my husband was painfully absent from all the big events.

Somehow, Valentine’s Day, his birthday, my birthday, our anniversary — you get the point — became moments to endure rather than celebrate.

Still, I learned you can do things you never dreamed possible — when it comes to survival.

I’m not talking about existing in the wilderness on berries and rainwater — but the ordinary stuff you master when your life turns upside down.

In my case, that meant cooking a decent pork chop, pan-frying chicken and grilling asparagus — which were the year’s big accomplishments.

You see, my late husband was a gourmet chef, who savored slicing, sauteing and seasoning — while yours truly was the proverbial bottle washer.

Now that he’s gone, I tried to talk the cat — and the hamster — into cleaning up after supper, but they’ve stubbornly refused.

In 2016, I also discovered you must monitor your interior dialogue — the things you automatically say to yourself.

Sometimes I told myself, “This is impossible — I can’t live without him” and other days, “Oh, God, I just want to die!”

Now I’m trying to nip these thoughts in the bud — and replace them with, “You’re doing the best you can — I’m proud of you!”

It also helps to write on a sticky note: “Whatever God wills for me, I’ll accept with as much grace as possible.”

Daily Mass became a lovely, grace-filled haven that kept me relatively sane last year.

Listening each day to an Old Testament story, psalm, epistle and Gospel reading — and receiving Holy Communion — connected me to the love that never falters.

Many readers who lost beloved family members sent me heart-wrenching emails — and although they probably didn’t realize this, as I shared advice — and prayers — I discovered an answer to the nagging question, “Why am I still here, Lord?”

A friend from church — who lost her adult daughter to cancer — inspired me, as she ministered to another family whose grown son recently died.

Through her example, I began to see that helping others can be a path to healing.

When the days grew shorter, I drove in the pitch dark, each Wednesday evening, to the brightly lit First Baptist Church in Avondale Estates — where I rehearsed with the Chancel Choir for its yearly Lessons and Carols Christmas performance.

There, I discovered that singing also promotes healing — especially when the singers are kind and welcoming — and the repertoire features songs celebrating God’s undying love.

Truth be told, I’m relieved to say goodbye to 2016, but also grateful for the lessons learned — and as January peeks above the horizon, there’s a tiny tendril of hope in my heart.

Maybe in 2017, God will send me more people to help and beautiful songs to sing. Maybe I’ll laugh more and cry less — and learn how to grill a steak and fry a fish.

And, who knows — perhaps the cat will finally agree to clean up after supper and the hamster will pitch in.

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Lorraine Murray’s latest cozy, fun-filled mystery is “Death Dons a Mask,” the third in her Francesca Bibbo series. Her email is