04 December 2015

Grief is the Winter of the Soul

How best to cope with the loss of yet two more DEAR friends...I remember them with gratitude..and our long friendship...but the sting is still there...MJE

As the Tin Man so famously said, "Now I know I have a heart, because it's breaking."  Much longer ago the great Seneca (I think!) said, "next to the death of one's self is the death of a friend."  

Like winter there is no shortcut through loss and grief, but unlike winter it cannot be evaded by going elsewhere.  Continuing with the metaphor, surviving emotional winters takes work.

Stay warm.  Grief makes us more solitary, feekling sad and not wanting to impose on them or to answer questions over and over.  You need human warmth more, not less.  Stay in touch with friends, both the friends you and your late friends shared, and friends that they did not.  

Do Not Stay Outside Too Long.  Grieve too long and you get emotional frostbite.  Get inside by taking time off from grief.  See a silly movie, fix a favorite meal, do things that feel good.  And tell yourself that grief can wait for a day.  It can.  

Don't get stuck in the snow.  Grief can tempt us to stop exercising, sleep late, drink more.  Some slippage is inevitable but going slow is better than stopping as any driver in the snow will tell you.  

Make spring come.  Rather than measure how bad you feel from day to day, measure other things that matter, like people who plan their vegetable garden while the snow flies.  

Tap your maples. Sugar season is in late winter, when it is still cold.  But the cold now is a good thing.  At some point you might want to create a scrapbook of your friendship, perhas inviting other mutual friends to join you.  Hold a party when a friendship anniversary comes around. Plan a visit to a place you remember and cherish. Give money to a cause that she or he cared about.  

None of these things will make your sadness go away, and as you know there will be days during your winter of grief that are overwhelming.  That's when these tactics will serve to get you through them better, and when you are feeling overwhelmed help you get 'whelmed' sooner. 

The same Seneca (I hope!) also asked rhetorically, "shall a man bury his friendship with his friend?"  The friend is gone, but the friendship remains.  At first the absence of the friend is so strong that it is all you can feel.  But as the season of grief edges along the friendship becomes more evident.  

Finally, make new friends.  The gifts you received from your friends deserve to be passed along.  Be the friend she was for you to someone else.  Pay it forward, as they say.

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