“I lost that person that I was, before all this.”
These words describe the impact of a non-death loss.
We encounter so many losses throughout our lives, yet very few are actually acknowledged. Often, we may dismiss our own feelings about the loss because there seem to be more important, serious, or ‘real’ deaths happening that require our attention. In reality, it is just as important to acknowledge the non-death losses when we feel their impact. Sometimes grief related to a non-death loss or transition could be mislabeled as depression. Giving ourselves time to identify what has been lost is a good way to get started. Some non-death losses could be related to: mobility, loss of an ability, infertility/loss of being a parent, our sense of identity, a significant role, or even our previously held beliefs about the world and what we imagined life would be.
If you have experienced a recent loss or change in your life, I want you to know that it is okay to grieve even the ‘small’ losses.
It’s down to the bitter end, and yet the cold temperatures and overall rainy days might be really testing you at this point! There is another option: Get Creative! Draw, dance, drum, write, sculpt, sew, knit, collage, chisel, hammer, glue, paint, play pretend, prepare for Spring. Look for new sources of inspiration from your own experiences and from the winter landscape. Or, go to an local pottery or painting studio, or check out a local maker’s space. This article proposes that there is a special link between creating with our hands and pushing away depression, check it out:
The gray skies are back in Atlanta today. Even though reduced sunlight and cold temperatures may be difficult to take, there are also many gifts of Winter. We recently witnessed a complete lunar eclipse–the night sky is more easily visible to us without the full leafy trees of Summer. (I know, I’m searching hard for the upside 🙂 And, like other creatures, we may benefit from time to ‘hibernate’ and reflect on our hopes for the year ahead. Winter is a chance to slow our pace, take stock, and consider our intentions going forward. Look for small things you appreciate about your life or the Winter Season. The coldest days may be the best ones to imagine yourself around the hearth fire and nourish your connection to yourself–listening for your own inner wisdom. Or, head out to the Fernbank Planetarium and Observatory for a closer view of the winter night sky: http://www.fernbank.edu/fsc.html#msg-box8-k2
If you missed the ‘super blood wolf moon’, check it out at the NASA site here:
Although I am not usually a big fan of turnips, I recently discovered how tasty they can be in a slow cooker soup with butternut squash, potato, onion and pear. Yes, I said pear! We have learned more and more that there is a strong connection between our physical health and our mental well-being. Nourishing yourself with fresh healthy foods, including a variety of vegetables, grains and lean protein is a great way to combat the winter blues. If you enjoy cooking, take this opportunity to try a new recipe with a winter vegetable. Even if you don’t enjoy cooking…look for easy ways to get a variety of vegetables into your meals.
Check out this article for more on the connection between nutrition and mental health:
Colder and shorter days mean it may be more difficult to find time to exercise. But, don’t let the drop in the temperature stop you from getting your weekly dose of endorphins, a natural mood booster. Try a new gym membership…winter may be the perfect time to perfect your swimming stroke at an indoor pool. Learn to rock climb at one of Atlanta’s rock climbing gyms. Or, embrace the winter sports and find an ice skating rink! It doesn’t have to be complicated or pricey, bundle up and take a walk in your own neighborhood, or pop in one of those old-school workout DVD’s with your rainbow leg warmers and get your endorphins flowing from the comfort of your own home. If it has been a long time since you were active, check with your doctor about any new exercise routine!
Some more info on how exercise can reduce depression:
During winter months, sunlight is limited and especially this year in Atlanta, we have had some extra-grey, cloudy, rainy days. For those who are sensitive to this change in light it may feel more difficult to get out of bed and to stay positive over the winter months. Today is a rare sunny day….and the perfect opportunity to talk about the #1 item in beating the Winter Blues:
1) Chase the Sun–or at least stumble slowly towards it
Even when it feels too cold to stay outside, find a way to bask in sunlight each day. Look for patches of sunlight through the window; open the blinds in your office, or step outside during your lunch break. If you are able, consider taking a few days away to a sunnier spot. If getting up in the morning is a struggle, consider using an lamp that mimics the sun’s rays or an alarm clock that incorporates gradually increasing light…sending the signal, it’s time to wake from your Winter slumber.
My favorite winter sunlight spot: Backyard hammock, with a blanket if necessary.
What is yours?
you who are living
restore us, renew us.
Speak for our silence.
Continue our work.
Bless the breath of life.
Sing of the hidden patterns.
Weave the web of peace.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good costume and some mini chocolate bars, but the spooky costumes and sweet candy of Halloween are just one aspect of this special time of year. This is also a time when multiple traditions acknowledge the connection between ourselves and those who have gone before us. Regardless of your faith tradition or cultural background, this can be an opportunity to re-member those who have died recently, in years past, or even distant ancestors who paved the way for us.
Why do I use a ‘dash’ in re-membering?
The process of thinking about those who have died is a way of recreating their place as a member of our circle. In re-membering, we are keeping a space for them at the table, we create a place for them in our life story, we allow the important aspects of their lives to influence our lives again and again. Re-membering is an active process, not just thinking about the past, but bringing the lives of our most important people into the present.
How do you create a space for re-membering?
Pictures, special items belonging to your loved one, or symbols of what they stood for, can be used to focus your attention on the important impact of your person. You might make a special point to share memories of the person, highlighting the characteristics you hope to re-member and carry forward. You might consider doing something in your community to honor a special cause your loved one supported, or simply visit one of their favorite places. Doing something they taught you, or something that they always wanted to do can also be great ways of re-membering. The most important, is that you re-member in the way that feels right for you and is consistent with your person’s personality….quirks, flaws and all!
For more on Re-Membering check out this article on the Pixar movie “Coco” from the ladies at What’s Your Grief?