Conversations in Grief Blog: Long Winter of Our Grief
Winter, for all its beauty, requires a different level of adaptation. For those of us who have lived our lives in the northern hemisphere, we know how to prepare. Ingenuity and a few extra layers make a world of difference. Farmers for centuries utilized a simple rope to keep them alive when winter was at its most brutal. A rope tied from their home to the barn meant, no matter how bad the blizzard, the cows would be milked, fed, and the farmer would make it home safe. The connection to that rope was often life or death when the snow was so thick you could not see which way the house was.
In winter, we learn endurance of a different kind as the beauty of winter drags us into darker and colder days. Long days at home can make it unbearable, especially when your only companion is grief. Grieving in winter is hard and often very lonely. Laura Ingalls Wilder describes one experience in her famous book The Long Winter*, “There were no more lessons. There was nothing in the world but cold and dark and work and coarse brown bread and winds blowing.” The things we are accustomed to, that we find supportive, may no longer be an option in winter. This can make living with grief feel impossible.
So how do we cope when what we have found to be supportive is unavailable or in short supply? We adapt. Wintering grief requires adaptation and at times planning to cope. Below you will find a list of suggestions. These are simple things you may find helpful to cope with grief in winter. They have been divided into categories based on the needs they meet. This is not an extensive list but some suggestions for supporting ourselves during the winter months.
- Set limits on social media
- Join a support group
- Make regular plans with loved ones for in-person connections
- Reconnect with friends and family you haven’t talked with over the summer
- Take a class, join a crafting group, or a bowling league
- Consider volunteering
- If you enjoy walking outdoors consider getting cleats for your boots, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing
- Sign up for a fitness class, join a gym, or try an exercise video
- Try swimming at an indoor pool
- Make a list of projects to tackle around the house
- Lean into your hobbies
- Learn a skill you have always wanted to learn (knitting, wood carving, bread baking, etc.)
- Read books or join a book club
- Watch movies you have always wanted to see
- Journal or engage in creative writing
- Adopt some house plants if you love to garden
Winter Self Care
- Do your best to eat healthy, limit junk food, and try to get consistent sleep
- Get some sunshine by going outside or sitting near a sunny window
- Stay connected with friends and family who are supportive of you
Living with grief in the often-isolating winter months can be difficult. We are here if you need support or to connect with one of our support groups. Our current support group, Morning Joe, meets every Monday from 8:30-10:00 a.m. in the lower level of our Inpatient Center in Johnson Creek. A six-week evening support group will start again in February. Contact Bereavement Counselors Laura Wessels or Hilary Furnish at 920.674.6255 for questions, support, or to register for a group.
*Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Long Winter. Harper Collins, 1940.