The first year following the death of a loved one you may reflect on the significant and insignificant events of your life from the previous year. You may catch yourself thinking, “Last year, at this time, we were…” Your memories of those seasons of life include your loved one and you may be painfully aware that when the season comes again, you will have lived a whole year without him or her. This reality confirms what you may already have known - that the physical presence of your loved one is lost forever, just like the last hint of snow that melts into the ground. And with that realization come a new sense of how time and the seasons pass.
The change of seasons signifies the many roles that your loved one played in each of the seasons of your life. These role losses may trigger your grief all over again. The subtle changes that signal the approach of a new season observed by others may be overshadowed by the grief that looms over each passing day for you. And then, before you know it, time has continued to tick off minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months as you are confronted with a new season that brings with it more loss and grief.
As each season arrives, ask yourself:
- What roles did my loved one play in this season?
- Who will fill that role now?
- What role did I play in my loved one’s life that is now gone?
If no one can fill that role, you may need to ask for help from others who may be waiting for that opportunity. You will need to allow yourself to grieve the unique role your loved one played in your life, as well as the role you played in his or hers.
With each new time of year, you may find that your mood does not fit the season.
- As spring arrives, you may feel like you are in the winter of your grief, only to be surrounded by new growth, new beginnings and people who talk about things like hope and anticipation of warmer weather.
- Summer months are often spent doing family and outdoor activities that may heighten your sense of loss. The days full of despair may be longer than you would like them to be. It may be a beautiful day, but you may feel stone cold inside.
- As the leaves fall from the trees in the fall and the growing season ends, you are reminded of the dullness and drabness of your life. Your grief may be in its fallow time, where everyday looks pretty much the same.
- As the weather gets colder and forces you indoors, you may feel even more alone and isolated in your grief. The shorter days may amplify the night you feel in your soul.
It is important to surround yourself with the beauty of each new season in order to remind yourself that while you may be in the depths of your grief, you are in the midst of life.
- Surround yourself with living things in order to reassure yourself that your grief will change like the seasons.
- When you go outdoors, breathe in fresh air deeply to replace the stagnant air of grief.
- Take a moment to feel the breeze against your face or the warmth of the sun against your skin. Remind yourself that you are still alive, even though your loved one has died.
- Plant flowers to reassure you that plants grow with care. Remind yourself often, that your grief will ease if you honor it and take care of it. Indeed, you may find yourself growing in ways you could have never imagined.
- If you have no seeds of hope, let someone else plant them for you. Surround yourself with others who will tend to you, encourage you, and provide an environment where you can do your work.
Remember, time alone will not heal your grief; it’s what you do with your time that heals your grief. Trust in the rhythm of your grief. Trust that someday in a new season you will find your way back to life just like the daffodil that breaks through the frozen ground back into the sunlight.