The season has changed and the days are longer and warmer; new blooms rise from the ground each morning, and tree buds are bursting. Nature is at its glorious best, and the days hold the promise of what is to come. How can anyone be sad at this time of year?
The spring blooms that bring so much pleasure push my friend Beth into an annual melancholy. Ever since her mother died one bright April morning, the arrival of spring makes Beth teary-eyed as she recalls the terrible emptiness of that spring day when her dear mother passed away. Each year is a little better, but Beth finds no solace in spring.
Those of us who are bereaved have our own seasons of grief. For me, it is the bitter winter. For another dear friend, it is the launch of summer in July.
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 keep busy, not just with my work, but with an active social life. At 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.
I’ve learned over the years 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 and feel grateful that they were a part of my life. I light a candle for each of them on the anniversary of their death. The candle burns for 24 hours, and as I move through my day, I glimpse the candle, and it reminds me how their spirit continues to live on in 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.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.