The Winter Blues
Posted by Dan Sterdt
The winter season is one of dichotomous feelings and expectations. With a flux of holidays, considered by many to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” there also comes the sadness mirroring a period of loss, change, darkness, and cold. For those who have experienced a recent death of someone they love, there are constant reminders of traditions and memories, but also of the empty place at the family table. As a grief therapist with JourneyCare throughout the past three years, my calendar grows ever fuller as December rolls around. There is also palpable relief in those I counsel when the holidays have passed us by.
While bereavement is a natural, universal process that uniquely touches each individual’s life, our societal expectations of grievers is often unreasonable and unrealistic. During the holiday months, it is presumed that all will be thankful, joyful, forgiving, and relaxed. We all must send dozens of cards and remember everyone to whom they must be sent. We must bake until our ovens can hold no more pastries. We must make an appearance at multiple festive gatherings. And we must find the perfect presents for those special people in our lives. All of these “shoulds” are quite difficult to uphold, especially for those who are in mourning.
Many in the animal kingdom treat the winter months as a time of restoration and even seclusion. Bears hibernate, birds flock far away from the blustery weather, tiny mammals burrow into the warm ground, and insects withdraw into cocoons. We humans have similar needs, especially when grieving. We need time and space for healing. We need shelter from the elements. Most importantly, we need patience and understanding. It’s hard to be cheerful, even in the best of circumstances, when the sun sets at 2:00 pm and the cold seeps into your bones. As we reflect on the “perfect gifts” to give, perhaps that of compassion – meeting our loved ones where they’re at – is the loveliest of all.
May your winters be peaceful, and may your memories of your loved ones bring you comfort and strength.
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