Preparing for Your Winter of Grief

In Vermont where I live, the change of seasons brings a significant shift of feeling and sensation. The sounds change as birds migrate, cicadas’ drones ease, and leaves on trees begin their mighty transformation through colors, ultimately falling to the ground. As nature readies herself for winter, so do we. And for many of us, it is a time that resonates on a same frequency as grief.

It’s not a coincidence that the transition to winter can feel like grief. For thousands of years, humans have connected the process of harvesting crops and the dying off green to the cycles of life and death. There are stories, myths, songs, poetry, and art about this rhythm. There used to be great rituals surrounding these turns of time. In many parts of the world, if one wants to stay connected to these rituals, it is by choice and through conscious effort, because our culture does not do these things collectively anymore.

Grieving is like this, too.

When I think back on what I expected of myself in the years after my mother died, I often wish I could go back and do it differently. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to relive that time of acute grief, but I wish I could go back and hold myself in a softer way and be more tender to the part of me that died, too.

I was a new person because of this loss and all that happened around that time. Yet, I kept striving to feel stronger and more back-to-normal than I felt. As I’ve been reflecting on this, some things have come clear for me about what I would do differently if I could turn back the wheel of time. Maybe they will help as you navigate the road of grief that you are on.

What I Would Do Differently

  • I would give myself more time before heading back into all my responsibilities. Some I had no choice about, but some could have waited.
  • I would have more loving patience with myself and not get discouraged by rough days, awkward moments, tears, and distraction.
  • I would embrace the idea that I am changed and be curious about it. Grief opens doors to whole new parts of ourselves. Granted, we might wish we didn’t have to learn about ourselves this way, but instead of trying to feel different or better, I would try to let myself be, and look at the landscape that surrounded me.
  • I would let other people help me more. As a pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps kind of person, I tend to decline efforts of others to care for me in ways I feel I should do for myself. This is a symptom of our independent-individual culture and is something I’m actively working on.
  • I would throw the word “should” out the window.
  • I would find my community, whether in-person, online, or in reading. I did do a lot of reading about grief after my mom died, and it was very grounding for me, and I did talk to a lot of people who knew the road of grief well themselves. I would extend this effort into those later years after her loss when I was still struggling but felt like I couldn’t keep talking about it.
  • I would take time to find myths and stories that reflect the pain of loss, death, and renewal. Doing this now soothes me because it links my experience with the experience of all who came before me. It reminds me that I am not alone.

The Cycle of Life and Death

As I write, I hear the chorus of geese as they migrate south, squawking and calling to each other. The cicadas are quieter than they’ve been, but still offer a background hum to the remaining days of warmer temperatures. I am reminded that we are all a part of this cycle, our laughter and our cries adding to the drone.

Bradie Hansen is co-author of  The Long Grief Journey: How Long-Term Unresolved Grief Can Affect Your Mental Health and What to Do About It (Compassionate Grief Book for Healing After Loss): Blair, Pamela D., McCabe Hansen, Bradie: 9781728262666: Books

Read more from Bradie Hansen: Maintaining Contact with the Dead Heals Some Grievers – Open to Hope

Bradie Hansen

Bradie McCabe Hansen is a licensed psychologist- Master, who’s been in private practice for over twenty years. She has worked with children, adolescents, and adults, especially around issues to do with depression, anxiety, grief, addictive or abusive use of substances, developmental transitions, and trauma. She is the co-author of the newly released book The Long Grief Journey: How Long-Term Unresolved Grief Can Affect Your Mental Health and What to Do About It as well as the article “The Wisdom of Regret”, published in the Assisi Institute Journal. In addition to Bradie’s clinical work, she teaches weaving and helps to manage the fiber studio at the Shelburne Craft School in Shelburne, Vermont. Certified as an Archetypal Pattern Analyst and a Weaving a Life Leader, Bradie has the unique opportunity to help people use weaving and fiber craft to work through life stages and passages, grief, and moments of choice. As a psychologist, Bradie worked with individuals around complex life experiences for many years, but it was the sudden and traumatic loss of her mother in 2017 that opened her eyes to the lived experience of long-term, complicated grief. Grief altered her capacity to socialize, complete mundane errands, and carry on with many of the responsibilities that had previously been part of day-to-day life. After a particularly challenging time of sleeplessness and stress all to do with the rigors of grieving, she found herself learning how to weave on a four-harness, counterbalance floor loom that had come into her possession. Her teacher showed her how to thread every heddle, and sley every dent in the reed. The repetitive and mindful motions required for dressing a loom helped her find her way back to herself. While Bradie was already teaching children about the wonderful world of handcrafting, the gifts she received from weaving were expanded, and she now tries to bring the healing potential of handcrafting to clients and students. Bradie shares, “There was no thinking my way out of the pain I was feeling. No problem solving could get me through it. No timeline applied. But engaging in something as tangible as weaving helped me to connect with myself and with the threads that connect all people to each other. Weaving is a part of our ancestral DNA. Through the simple process of interlacing threads, I was able to weave comfort over my broken heart and find my way back to community and my own creativity. Now, I just want to share that gift that I received when I was at my lowest point with other people.” You can reach Bradie through her website: and you can find her book, The Long Grief Journey, on Amazon. Additionally, Bradie and her co-author Pamela Blair will be regularly contributing to the Long Grief Journey Blog which you can find here:

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