Grief and the Winter Solstice

 Sun rising late in early December, two weeks before the solstice. Grief is a kind companion on my morning walks. photo by anne richardson. Lake Oswego, OR

Sun rising late in early December, two weeks before the solstice. Grief is a kind companion on my morning walks. photo by anne richardson. Lake Oswego, OR

In two weeks Day will shake off sleep and stretch arms open earlier each morning. Night shakes off my shoulders minute by minute as I wake to walk with the rising sun. Winter solstice is close. The tipping point between longest night and shortest day.

The seven winters I drove as a hospice chaplain, spending hours on the road, I dreaded winter. Long hours with headlights staring me down at the end the day. Wet pavement the preferred alternative to the days temperatures dropped below freezing. My hands would cramp gripping the steering wheel. The time I spent with patients and families was a blessing, but my body became as worn as the tires on my car. There were times of appreciating the metaphors of the winter season—the need for deep rest before rebirth, starkness of learning what needs to be stripped away as necessity for growth, spotting sprites of life when everything seemed desolate, the joy of witnessing the first hint of crocus stem push through wet, packed earth. But in the permanent half-light of deep winter and with my eyes fixed on the taillights ahead, those metaphors were wiped away like the raindrops on my windshield before they could settle in to my bones.

Now I have a desire to linger in the darkness of winter as the sun hangs low in the sky, our Northern Hemisphere turning away from the heat for rest. I recently traveled to the beach for two nights and while there, the small town was undergoing utility upgrades. The electricity was off from 11pm-5am both nights. Total darkness. Immersion in my own inner dwelling place without the interference of our light infused world was a wool blanket of comfort. No longer afraid of darkness like I was as a child, when the sound of walnuts dropping onto the roof of our farmhouse filled my mind with invaders marching down the shingles ready to come through the window to harm me, I welcomed the invitation to lie in bed, eyes open watching the dark move around me.

It is in darkness I have to trust…trust beyond my ability to see what is on the path ahead.
— anne richardson

It is in darkness I have to trust…trust beyond my ability to see what is on the path ahead. It is in darkness that losses can reemerge from their hiding place, knowing I am quiet and can listen to what they want to teach me, even if that message is, “You still have mourning left undone.” It is in darkness that Grief puts an arm around me and when I take fumbling steps, is there with me. Not pushing, not prodding, not even suggesting…just reminding me I am not alone. Grief is my safe resting place when I need time out. Holds the cup to catch my tears. Will greet Joy with open arms when we are reunited again. Grief knows we have been on this journey before, and light does return. That the winter solstice is followed by a spring equinox, followed by the summer solstice and again the autumnal equinox, with other markers in-between to offer us metaphors to navigate the journey of shadow and light.

 Crocus can be a metaphor of coming though the winter soil of loss. Photo by anne richardson. Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop's Close. Lake Oswego, OR

Crocus can be a metaphor of coming though the winter soil of loss. Photo by anne richardson. Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop's Close. Lake Oswego, OR


Where are you on any journey of loss you are experiencing as winter solstice approaches? Eagerly anticipating winter days to lengthen and the darkness to shrink? Finding solace in the dark and drawing inward? How does it feel to trust Grief as companion on your journey who willingly leads you back to Joy at your pace?


My first workshop of 2019 is The Labyrinth Path: Writing and Walking with Grief & Loss, Feb 24th from 1-5pm in SE Portland. Please follow the link to find out more.

You can also follow my frequent postings on Instagram @nurtureyourjourney.