Winter’s End & Grief
Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to tell when winter really ends and spring begins? Just when it seems all the snow has melted and that there hasn’t been any falling for awhile, we get hit with more. Sometimes, it’s just a little and hardly lasts long at all. Sometimes it’s a blizzard and that cold wet white stuff is everywhere.
When it’s light and fluffy, we can remove it easily. When it’s heavy and compacted it is much more difficult. Sometimes, not long after another snowfall, we wake up and the sun is shining and the air is warm and spring like. We may wonder how it can be so different from one day to the next. We may also wonder when spring will really be here and are anxious for it to arrive, knowing that summer is not far behind.
If you live in Wisconsin, as I do, or somewhere like it, this probably sounds very familiar to you. For some, it is this very uncertainty and variety that people love about living here. Many others deal with it and endure it while longing for a more predictable climate.
The more I have learned about grief, the more it has struck me that in many ways it is not unlike our weather. Those of us who are grieving often wonder:
When will this end?
When will I be better?
When will this cold, bleak time be finished?
Is there no end to it?
Will life always be like today?
After awhile, we may actually begin to feel better, less sad. More like we are really alive. We may get our hopes up thinking, “Ah finally, I have turned the corner. I am on my way. Life will be good again starting now.” Perhaps those feelings and thoughts will last for moments, hours, days, maybe weeks, depending how far along we are in our grief. But for most of us, at some point much like the snow, our tears will fall again. Our anger will be back in all its force. Loneliness and our longing for the past will once more be a part of our present. When this happens we need to know:
That this too shall pass.
We haven’t done anything wrong.
We are not a failure at this grief stuff.
The sun will shine again and the next time it will stay with us longer.
Just as the meteorologist attempt to forecast the weather, oftentimes we or others in our life try to predict when we will feel better, how we will feel next, and what we should do in the meantime. Just as the weather forecasters’ best guess or researched opinion is not always right, nor are those who try to have us and our grief fit some sort of formula or pattern.
While gathering knowledge about grief and what it has been like for others may help us prepare for what comes, it cannot and they cannot with certainty predict what will come. So just like when the forecast says it may or may not rain, we may want to take our umbrella just in case. In grief that means knowing that:
We may be angry.
We may feel numb.
We may not be able to concentrate.
We might feel our loved ones’ presence.
We may not have the same priorities.
We may view the world differently.
We might feel relieved and free.
We might be glad our loved one is no longer in pain yet still sad that now we are in pain without him or her.
Our grief will have peaks and valleys.
Talking to others who are grieving, reading books about grief, attending a grief support group, or talking with a grief counselor will not make our grief disappear. It will not cause us to feel better sooner. These things may help us, though, to understand better what we are experiencing. And that understanding may make us feel less vulnerable as we face and embrace our grief.
Here in Wisconsin, when we get a good snow, we know that it is not something we can go around. The only way to the other side of town, even in the snowstorm, is to go through it. And the only way to get to the other side of grief is to go through it too.
Bring along your umbrella.