Spring is in the air. Birds are chirping and children are laughing as they play at the park. Everyone has a bright smile on their face, and a cheery greeting as they pass by. And then there’s you. You liked the dark nights and gray days of winter. Of being able to wear bulky clothes and curl under blankets, where no one could bother you. Where you were safe.
When you experience the death of a loved one, during the winter months, it can be easy to hibernate away from the world. Particularly given the realities of COVID, friends and family are probably less likely to want to socialize. And there are legitimate excuses for you to give them– the potential for bad weather, not wanting to drive at night, wanting to keep quarantining, even just having the blues. But as spring approaches it will be much harder to avoid both people, the general sense of rebirth, and hope in a fresh, new season. Because this can be a difficult transition, we want to first invite you to consider the emotions you are currently experiencing. Perhaps you are angry. Angry that the world is moving on, and people are visibly happy, while your own world has been stopped by death. Or is what you’re feeling closer to sadness? Sadness that time is moving forward, and that you are losing the comfort that winter brought you. Maybe it is even fear. The fear of feeling like you have to move on, but having no idea what that means for you and your grief. In this article we want to give you a few ideas to slowly transition into spring. We hope you will find them helpful, or be able to modify them in ways that bring you new comfort and strength.
The first option is to plant a few seeds. Watching bare dirt change into tiny green leaves, and eventually plants or flowers will give you something to focus on. Depending on the size of your living space it could be a few small herbs, marigolds, ivy, cacti, or even vegetables. Radishes and spinach are a great place to start if you are a novice. Perhaps you have the space to buy flowers to transplant, where they can then live on a balcony or patio. Whichever way you decide to go, there are many resources within your own community, such as local gardening centers, or online. If the idea of growing something seems too strenuous, consider brightening your space with cut flowers, or even artificial ones in a color that brightens your mood. They can serve as a reminder that it is ok to have new things in your life.
Another suggestion is to take up walking. With the time change there will be more daylight both in the morning and in the evening, so there is plenty of opportunity to pick a time that fits your schedule. You may be experiencing low energy, and this form of exercise can be very low impact. Walking is also a very beneficial way to provide a sense of accomplishment. Start by walking for about 10 minutes, at whatever pace makes you comfortable. You can gradually increase the time and pace as you feel you are able. You may even decide at some point to invite a friend along for company. Walking is a gentle way to reintroduce yourself to your neighborhood, or a favorite spot in your community that you haven’t been to in a while.
Our final recommendation may take some creativity, and kindness to yourself. It might be time to refresh your living space. This could include painting a wall a new color, or buying a new rug or decoration (think lamp, pillows, wall art, etc.). However this can also include beginning to pack-up and put away the items your loved one left behind. Clothing could be sorted, and hobby items could be evaluated and either sold or boxed up and stored. If there is a particular piece of furniture that could be given away, that could become part of this process too. While this might sound painful, you can also consider creating a memorial space for your loved one. Perhaps a space on the bookshelf for their favorite coffee mug and fishing pole; or a set of photographs to hang on the wall. The possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities to revisit cherished memories. If you do not feel ready to go through everything, or anything, that is okay too. Just know that it is an option you have, when you are ready.
The recommendations that we make are intending to help you move forward, but we want you to remain safe while doing so. It would be careless not to recognize the real world effect that COVID continues to have on our ability to process deep grief, and these activities are all intended to be done with your safety in mind. Additionally, if you find yourself overwhelmed by grief and sadness, we encourage you to reach out to a professional for additional help and resources. As winter transitions into spring, it is our hope that you are able to use or modify these ideas while navigating your grief journey. Change can be difficult, particularly when you don’t have a choice but to see the world awakening and renewing around you. Winter may have felt safe, but spring can be too.