The Invincible Summer Within
Posted by Fran Nathanson, LCSW
The French writer and philosopher Albert Camus once wrote, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, especially as winter and the holiday season approaches, it can be challenging to find that “invincible summer” through one’s anguish and tears. When burdened with sadness and pain, how do we find that which comforts and calms us? I believe the foundation of the resilience of which Camus writes is hope.
Hope can be elusive during grief, yet it is as vital as the air we breathe. Sometimes, just hoping that tomorrow won’t be as bad as today is the best we can do. That’s a start. That’s okay. One of the ways the bereaved can try to make tomorrow better is to set small, realistic goals ̶ every day. Maybe the goal is just to get out of bed, or pay one bill, or work on thank you notes for 15 minutes. Almost anything is tolerable for 15 minutes. These small accomplishments start to build a foundation of success which in turn can spark a bit of hope.
The holidays are a time of merriment and festive gatherings. Someone in mourning may feel alienated from this happiness and find that all they can think of is their grief because their loved one is missing from every event. Remembering the positive memories of a loved one during this time can help. When sharing those memories with others who knew the person who died, we can feel supported by their kind words and loving reflections. It helps to know that we are not alone in our grief and that our loved one has not been forgotten.
Part of taking care of oneself during grief is sometimes politely saying no. Knowing your limits, respecting them, and asking others to do so isn’t being rude, it is an expression of enlightened self-interest. Consider your time, cost, emotional and physical energy as you weigh holiday commitments. It’s okay to do things differently this year if that feels best to you. Being able to set limits appropriately can begin to restore a sense of personal control at a time when that seems to have been lost.
How we think about our situation has a significant impact on how we feel about it. Holding on to the idea that there are things I can do that might help me is vital to being able to cope with loss. It engenders hope to think of oneself as capable of learning to manage one’s grief. That “invincible summer within” comes in part from being able to counter the pain of loss with good self-care, seeking connection and taking small steps to regain a sense of personal efficacy.
The next sentence of Camus’s quote is not usually included, but is very apt: “And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, there’s something stronger ̶ something better, pushing back.”
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