It’s wintertime for me, the most dismal time of year.

The birthdays of three special family members and the anniversaries of their deaths fall within a ten-week period. I used to think the weather made this time even gloomier until I read an essay that changed my thinking. The writer’s father died in the month of July and the author shared that despite the sunshine and flowers, July is always a season of sadness for her.

So how do we cope with these seasons of grief? I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong way to work through it. Grief is so personal and unique and it’s influenced by our experience and relationships.

As the years have passed, I’ve handled these seasons differently, trying not to get mired in it. Sometimes I’ve kept busy, not just with my work, but with an active social life. Other times, travel is a great distraction. I often try to focus on being productive so if I succumb to sadness, at least I feel a sense that I’m moving forward. Often, just living in the present and keeping an eye on the future helps.

But what I have learned over the years is that at some point, no matter how sad, it is essential for me to acknowledge my family members. I think of them on their birthdays, feeling my love for them and the gratitude that they were a part of my life.

I light a candle for each of them on the anniversary of their deaths. The candle burns for twenty-four hours and as I move through my day, I glimpse the candle as I pass and it reminds me how their spirit continues to live on within me.

What I’ve found empowering is the knowledge that while I can’t change what has happened to me, I can control how I manage the experience. I can avoid it by burying myself or getting out of town. Or, I can acknowledge it and allow myself to recognize the gifts that were mine, no matter how fleeting. All of us have that power.

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Robbie Kaplan

Robbie Miller Kaplan is a writer and trainer with an expertise in communications. She is the author of nine books, including How to Say It® When You Don't Know What to Say and How to Say It® In Your Job Search. In 1981, Robbie gave birth to two children; a son Aaron in January and a daughter Amy in December. Both babies died in infancy from the same congenital heart defect. It is her experiences with loss as well as a passion to make a difference with others grieving a loss that motivated her to write How to Say It® When You Don't Know What to Say. Her goal is to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about face difficult times. It is now available in individual volumes for Illness & Death, Suicide, and Miscarriage. Ms. Kaplan is a frequent guest with media outlets ranging from the CBS Early Show to the Washington Post. She has been quoted and recommended by syndicated columnists Amy Dickinson in her ASK AMY column and Joyce Lain Kennedy in her CAREERS NOW column. Her advice and books have appeared in national and regional publications, including: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Detroit Free Press, New Jersey Star Ledger, Dallas Morning News, Charlotte Observer, The State, The Indianapolis Star, LA Times, New York Daily News and web sites such as jobsinthemoney.com, abcNEWS.com, efinancialcareers.com, AuditNet.org, and USATodayCareers.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Mason University and is MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and Strong (Strong Interest Inventory) qualified. She has a management background with Xerox Corporation and Marriott International. Ms. Kaplan writes a monthly column for AuditNet.org and wrote an "Ask the Expert" column for jobsinthemoney.com and efinancialcareers.com. She is a contributing author to the Strong Interest Inventory Applications and Technical Guide and has been published in PM Network, Careerjournal.com, washingtonpost.com, the magazine, Woman's Day, Writer's Digest, The Executive Female, Internal Auditing Alert, Science and Engineering Horizons, and The Woman Engineer. Ms. Kaplan is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. To Listen to Robbie's Radio show

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