“When we scattered the ashes, the land was bare and brown and dry and cold. And we ourselves felt bare and cold. We were feeling the death in us, Rebecca and I, and hoping for spring to come, hoping for spring in us, hoping for something to be reborn.”

– Loving Grief

Does your grief have a different color in winter? Does winter seem more in tune with your grief than spring does?

Winter landscapes here in the middle Atlantic states are rarely white. They’re mostly just bare, dominated by grays and browns. Cold rain is more common than snow. Is that what your grief feels like?

Does winter seem to you to be a time when grief is invited to huddle in front of a fire and look inward? And if you accept that invitation, what you find in there? What is it that you’re keeping warm within you?

In winter we feel vulnerable to the weather; we need to wrap ourselves in blankets or clothing to stay warm. But still, we can look to nature for different models of how to respond to winter.

Some animals struggle to survive the winter, search continually for enough scarce food. Others hibernate, cut back to the bare minimum of bodily functioning. And some animals retreat to dens or nests and give birth.

What kind of winter grief do you have? Is it a struggle for survival, hoping for an early spring? Is it a retreat from activity, slowing down, a long winter sleep till warmer times and brighter days rouse you? Or maybe it is a fertile withdrawal from which something new will be born?

To some extent, the shape of our winter grief is given to us by the timing of our loss, by the tide of our own emotions, by our personal memories and associations with winter.

And to some extent the shape of our winter grief is up to us. We can choose to rail against the unfairness of our loved one’s death, or to blame ourselves for what we did and what we failed to do. And we have another choice: we can choose to accept that our life with the person we lost was exactly what it was. We can choose to mourn the person we love, to suffer over their loss … O or to celebrate their life.

However you choose to grieve in wintertime, let it be a grief that will nurture you. Are you noticing what will be nourishing to you this winter? No one knows better than you what your grief needs; but unless you pay attention, you won’t notice what you need.

Will it serve you to huddle in front of a fire? Or to take an adventurous ski vacation?

Will it serve you to keep your routines in place? Or to experiment with new foods, new places, new ways of living your life? Whether you’re struggling to survive, hibernating till spring, or giving birth to something new, you can allow your winter grief to be exactly what it is, and you can nurture yourself by noticing what you need, right now.

Paul Bennett 2012

Paul Bennett

Paul Bennett is a writer living near Washington, DC. He was married to Bonnie Bunting for twenty years. After her death in 2002, he began writing and speaking about grief and about his exploration of spiritual and emotional growth as he built a new life. His book, Loving Grief, published by Larson Publications, was named “Best Inspirational Book” for the fall of 2009 by The Montserrat Review. For more information on the book, visit www.lovinggrief.com. To listen to Paul’s interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: http://www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley102209.mp3. A video of Paul reading from Loving Grief is on the AARP site at: http://radioprimetime.org/specials/focusspecials/bennett/index.htm.

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