The winter season often brings snow, warm cups of tea and fires in the fireplace. For those who have experienced a loss, navigating grief during winter can be a challenging time. The shorter days, grey skies and cold weather can reflect our feelings of grief. The holidays coming and going, the stillness of winter and more time spent home alone because of the weather can make grief difficult to bear.
Allowing ourselves to experience our grief, even amid the stillness of winter, is an important part of healing. It is also important to create in our home a place of comfort and retreat – a place of safety and light in the darkness. As we heal, we can develop deeper relationships with our loved ones, greater awareness of ourselves and our needs, and the strength to move forward in our lives.
So how do we help ourselves, or those we care about, during this winter season of grief?
Find ways to bring in the light.
Open the blinds and take advantage of every bit of daylight. Get outside, even for a little while, as sunlight can be helpful both psychologically and physically. Consider a light box, used by those with seasonal affective disorder, if the darkness is especially challenging.
It sounds so simple, and yet we don’t always realize how difficult it can be. Take deep breaths in, slowly letting them out. Take the time to concentrate on each breath. This helps you to be more present and can release tension within your body.
Make a list of indoor projects you want to accomplish.
These tasks can feel overwhelming, so be sure to take them in small pieces. If you take on too much and the projects don’t get finished, there can be an added sense of disappointment. Consider inviting a friend to come and help.
Ask for help.
Don’t try to brave your grief alone. Your loved ones are feeling helpless and are eager to be useful. Let them. It will benefit you both.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Challenge yourself to find at least one very specific thing to be grateful for each day. After a couple of weeks, increase that to two. This can be an especially helpful way to end your day and may also enhance sleep.
Consider an activity that will get you out of the house.
Join a gym, try yoga or sign up for a class at the community college. Enlist a friend to join you so you will have someone to be accountable to.
Be kind to yourself.
Most people expect so much of themselves. Don’t be hard on yourself if at the end of the day you feel you have completed nothing. Lack of motivation is very common in grief and is intensified for many in these dark, winter months. Allow yourself days when nothing seems to be accomplished, knowing that tomorrow you can try again.
Gilchrist offers grief counseling, support groups and workshops for those who have lost a loved one. To learn more, visit www.gilchristcares.org/grief-counseling/. Or you can sign up for grief work shops and support groups online: https://gilchristcares.org/grief_registration/