Autumn is present again in the Pacific NW where I reside. It was generous in allowing summer to take an encore bow and the first week was warm after an initial spat of rain. But cool nights, the need to grab a jacket when heading out, and sound of tires rolling against wet pavement is our autumn norm and droplets of rain wind down the window panes as I write this. I find comfort in the repetition of the four distinct seasons where I live, though no two are identical from year to year. Cyclical yet linear. Moving in a wide sweep. Inhales and exhales. Inching forward through this “thing” we have named time. It is this and more.
It is the forward motion of the seasons that reminds me of grief and loss today. Flowers fade, leaves turn bright colors or a crisp brown, then abandon the trees and become crushed residue against the weight of cars, tomatoes mold on the vine. Days dim and nights lengthen. If we choose, there is more time to be reflective, for the rhythm of the earth seems to call us into that space saying, “Complete the harvest, store your crops, prepare as you enter into winter.”
In our modern world, at least where city lights and technology bathe us in constant stimulation, nature’s rhythms can be ignored or disoriented. Where we might have noticed not just the vibrant red leaves still on the trees, but the ones lifeless on the ground and considered endings in our own lives, we take a quick picture of the trees to capture the beauty on a smart phone (guilty!) and hurry to get to our next stop. Yes, appreciate the beauty of what first catches your eye, but look deeper. There is more.
In a society that copes with grief and loss in predominately two ways—by ignoring it or minimizing it, it is no wonder that the “holidization” (yes, I just made up a new word) of autumn is increasing. When I was young Halloween was time for trick or treating, kids’ costume parties with some adults having fun too, and carved pumpkins. Now it is a major holiday with elaborate decorating and partying followed closely by Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a tip of the hat to Hanukkah.
For anyone in the midst of Grief, this can be an especially trying time of year. Expectations are high for the bereft (and we rarely call anyone that, for that would be an acknowledgment a person was grieving!) to attend certain events, partake in rituals, and behave like “normal.”
And Grief has no time limit. So it may be years since a significant loss entered into someone’s life. However the bombardment of festivities, whether they be up close and personal or just on the periphery whenever entering a public space, may leave Grief tapping against the heart as if it was yesterday.
Whether the Grief is newly minted, evolving, or resurfacing, honoring it and creating space to be with Grief while everyone around, at least on the surface, is celebrating, is exhausting. Lat year in my Honoring Grief During the Holidays workshop, I wrote a prescription for my attendees. It is my offer to you today to use in the months ahead.
What would you include in your own prescription to honor your Grief?
Have then been times when you have been surprised by Grief? What were the triggers?
If you feel comfortable, please leave a comment below. I am interested in hearing how others journey with their Grief.
If you live in the Portland/Metro area, my next workshop is November 3rd, 1-5: Honoring Grief During the Holidays. In this workshop, participants will be offered time to honor their Grief; reflect if traditional rituals are needing to be re-framed or discarded, and if so, what would be meaningful; and be given the simple gift of quiet in the midst of busyness. Using writing prompts, ritual, and walking a labyrinth, participants will be given opportunities to give voice to their Grief. No writing experience is necessary to participate! This workshop is in partnership with Portland Women Writers and is for women and those who identify female. Workshop is limited to 12 participants.