Grief can be heightened or re-awakened as the year comes to a close.
Whether your loss is recent or years have passed, autumn can be a difficult time for people with depression, or those grieving the death of a loved one. Weather and seasons can have a real impact on mood and coping. The days are becoming colder, and the earlier evening draws in. In essence, this brings more quiet time and stillness which causes us to notice the absence of a loved one more. It can be especially difficult if this is your first year of ‘everything’ without your loved one.
It’s also a reminder that the winter days will soon be here, as well as the inevitable periods of celebration. I get that this realisation can cause all sorts of dread and fear to rise up. Any source of change is often a catalyst for grief, as well as the emotional triggers that come with the festivities; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and so on. It’s not always easy to witness others in their ‘holiday happiness’, without feeling a tinge of sadness, jealousy, guilt or other emotions associated with grief. At times it seems like new memories will never happen, and peace will never be found.
Lighting the way.
The good news, there are lots of ways to help yourself through the autumn – winter seasons and I believe that they key is planning. And planning needs to start now.
By planning, I don’t mean you must produce a list of goals and an action plan (unless like me, you’d love that). What I really mean by planning is to spend some time understanding what your needs might be (I get that these can change with your grief), and having some flexible ideas or arrangements in place.
A good way to do this is to either talk things through with a friend, family member or professional. Or, take to your journal and do some explorative writing.
Here are 8 prompts for you to consider:
- During the autumn / winter period, what are the things you may find challenging? Explore this both practically and emotionally. Note down how you can work with or overcome these challenges. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers.
- What is it you feel you need during this period of time? i.e. it might be to spend some time alone, or you may prefer to be more social. Listen to your gut feeling on this.
- What would you like to do to honour your loved one in these seasons? i.e. you may wish to capture memories, allow time to grieve, etc.
- Who do you have / want to have around you as support? How can you factor in time with those people?
- What things have helped you so far in your grief journey? How can you get more of this during this period?
- As this season is full of celebrations, what do you see yourself doing on those days?
- What does self-care look like for you during this season? What will you do to prioritise this?
- If you were to offer some words of hope and comfort to a friend in the same situation as you right now, what would you say?
I found this lovely passage about ‘autumn grief’ by Nina Watts – Carrier, cited on the Good Grief website.
“Like the seasons, our lives ebb and flow. As in nature, some changes in our lives are gradual and subtle while others are significant and enduring. Change, such as death, can destabilise our world as everything that was once familiar to us is now different. Such dramatic changes can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. This is grief. Grief is a normal reaction to change and loss. Every relationship that we have is unique and therefore we all have our own unique experience with grief. Grief is holistic and impacts on every aspect of our lives, our sleep patterns, our appetite, our energy levels, our cognitive abilities, our emotions, and our ability to engage with people and things and so forth. Grief can be physically and mentally exhausting. Grief is the process by which we adjust to our new reality”.
I hope the prompts serve you and help you to prepare for the coming seasons. Please remember to always seek professional help if you are finding your grief a struggle. I’m here to help.