Seasons change, but what about my grief?
There can be a lot of emphasis on special occasions – anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc. when it comes to events that influence grief. Seasons and other markers of time can exert a similar effect, but can be confusing for those who are grieving – and those who support them. With an anniversary or a birthday, there’s a specific day to connect with an uptick in distress, but with a season, it can be harder to pinpoint. In this episode we talk about seasonal influences on grief and things to think about when navigating those changes. We highlight the approach of spring and how it can be particularly challenging time for those who are grieving. We also share ideas for ways to cope with the shift of seasons.
If you are grieving, it can be helpful to think through:
- What are the associations you have with this season and the person who died?
- What role did the person who died play in your life during this season?
- What traditions do you want to keep? What new ones do you want to make?
If you are in a support role, be aware of the events in each season that can be challenging for those who are grieving.
- In the frenzy of excitement and high energy enthusiasm, grieving people can feel left behind, not wanting to bring other people down.
- Being surrounded by the growth and change in the natural world can intensify a longing for grief to change. On the other hand, the march of time can be difficult as grievers worry they are leaving the person or their memory behind.
- Season of school graduations.
- Time of outdoor activities and family vacations.
- With children out of school it can be a stressful time for solo parents and children too.
- Tends to be the season of weddings.
- Darkening days, Halloween and all the imagery of death and ghosts.
- The sounds and smells of the end of something.
- Winter holidays emphasis on family.
- Hunkering down in the weather can make it difficult to connect with others.
- Here in Portland, there can be solidarity in complaining about the weather and the ill effects of never seeing the sun.
- Sometimes just knowing this is a common experience can bring relief.
- If you know someone who is grieving, ask them how the change of seasons is for them. Remember to avoid platitudes meant to reassure.
- If you’re caring for a grieving child or teen, open up a conversation about seasonal memories. Are there events or trips or other special parts of the season that your child is worried about missing or wants to skip?
- Look over your calendar, take note of any dates associated with particular memories, and make a plan for what you want to do during the lead up or actual day/week. Often our bodies remember before our brains catch up, so can help decrease confusion by making it visible.
- Connect with others who are grieving, solace in community.
- For kids/teens, the I Remember poem can be a good activity. Kids get to think of a memory or memories they have of the person in each season. In the summer I remember… In the fall I remember… In the winter I remember… In the Spring I remember…
- Think of what you enjoyed in the past, or what you would like to explore that connects to each season. Gardening, hiking trip, book club, class…etc.
- Love music? Create a playlist for the approaching season. Can be something to turn to in times when you feel lost/untethered.
- Take advantage of the thaw to move – not your house (unless that’s what is happening). Move your body. Can be anything from a quick walk, to biking, to running to playing Frisbee in the park. Physical exercise is vital to taking care of your mental, emotional, and physical self.
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Grief Out Loud is supported in part by the Chester Stephan Endowment Fund in loving memory by the estate of Theodore R. Stephan.