We all seem to remark more and more that there are no longer set seasons in the year.
In New England, winter can physically start in October or late December. We may get a few months of spring-like weather, or it could skip right over into the dog days of summer. Global warming is invariably blamed. Me, I have the totally unscientific view that Mother Earth just likes to mix things up sometimes and throw us off balance. Let’s face it – our time on the planet isn’t even a blip on its timeline radar. This chunk of rock will continue to shift and evolve long after we’ve turned to dust.
I bring this up because I see an analogy between the unpredictability of the seasons with each person’s journey with grief.
My oldest sister Anna recently passed, and I marvel at my brother-in-law. He was married to her for 50 years, and there truly was no greater love story. But instead of wallowing in a solitary disconnected state, he jumped in his car the day after the funeral and drove three hours to Tennessee to spend a week with his sisters and extended family. A few days after returning home to Ohio, Joe boarded a plane (by himself for the first time) to spend the Christmas holidays with my nephew Harvey’s family. He didn’t really want to be away from home that long, but we all gave a collective sigh of relief that he would not be alone during the horrible first holidays.
I don’t know if he was able to do this because he had known for months that Anna was dying and so had time to mentally prepare, or if he is just made of different stuff than someone like me, who still can’t face the holidays with others. Granted, my husband’s death was a surprise, but I don’t want to dilute how hard it must be for Joe.
Many self-help books compartmentalize grief into manageable chunks. I think Elizabeth Kubler Ross started it all with her five stages of grief. For many, it’s actually as erratic and messy as a slush-filled street.
Joe’s life is now leaving the cold, somewhat dormant winter as a long-time caregiver and entering an unending season of spring. Not the hopeful, flowers are everywhere renewal, but the “Oh, it’s sixty degrees today and sunny,” but then the temperature drops and a late snow kills the too eager crocuses which had sprung up their delicate heads from the semi-frozen ground. The unpredictable time of life when you don’t know whether to wear a light jacket or a snowsuit, keep busy and distracted or stay home and hold yourself a much-deserved pity party.
“Can I handle the seasons of my life?” Landslide by Stevie Nicks
I admire my brother-in-law for his outward stoicism, and sometimes feel a little ashamed that unlike him, I collapsed like a house of cards after my loss.
But then I remind myself that we’re all different. Not just in appearance and temperament, but in our ability to handle the unpredictable seasons of life.