“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” —Desmond Tutu
It is often acknowledged that the holiday season can add many logistical and emotional burdens for those who are grieving. Less often acknowledged are the shifts in weather and light that happen as winter arrives and progresses. Here in New England, the days become not only colder, but also shorter and much darker, and these changes may have an effect on our mood, our behavior, and how we care for ourselves and our families as we grieve.
Acknowledge the darkness.
Though winter can place many extra demands on us, it is important to remember that winter, too, has its place in the course of seasons, and darkness has its place in relationship to light. Similarly, when feeling overwhelmed, pausing to acknowledge that your grief may feel difficult to manage at this time of year can be an important first step toward clarifying how you might cope with the season. Taking time to understand that the season’s changes may be affecting you, and naming the ways that it might be doing so, can help you start to identify the best ways of supporting yourself and your family.
Make time for self-care.
Making time for your own needs and self-care is especially important in winter. It may seem too difficult or unrealistic to put your own needs first, but neglecting to make self-care a regular part of your daily routine can compound stress and negativity. Like grief, self-care is unique to each individual, but a few examples may include:
- adjusting your diet and exercise routines to take the best possible care of your physical body
- taking proper rest, when needed, and getting plenty of sleep
- taking more time alone for self-reflection and stillness
- leaning on the support of family, friends, and fellow community members
- making more time for activities that you enjoy, like reading, watching movies, taking a walk, cooking, or journaling
- expressing yourself creatively through painting, drawing, writing, singing, dancing, etc.
Without taking time for self-care, you may find yourself even more depleted and susceptible to being overwhelmed by painful emotions. Even a few minutes of engaging in self-care each day may have a significant impact on your outlook and your ability to cope with your grief.
Lean on old rituals or start new ones.
Those who are grieving may find that participating in or creating new rituals and ceremonies may help create a more positive framework for engaging with grief. Rituals and ceremonies can help bring us back to our present experience as we express our grief and process our emotions. They do not have to be elaborate to serve an important purpose. An act as simple as lighting a candle on a regular basis can be an important way to remember the person in your life who died and to remind you of the power of light in the winter darkness.
Remember: it is okay not to be okay.
We encourage you to feel what you are feeling, when you are feeling it. There is no one “correct” way to feel—often times when we are grieving, conflicting emotions can be felt all at once. Be patient and be gentle with yourself as your emotions ebb and flow this winter. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You are the expert on your own grief.