November and February are difficult months in countries with winter climates: by November winter weather has started to wear us down, and we know we still have about 4 or 5 months of winter to go, and days are getting shorter. February is one of the two coldest months of the winter; we have had 4 months of winter, and we probably have one to two more months to go.
As we approach the end of February, fatigue with winter, winter colds and flus, and going to work in the dark sets in. When the anniversaries of significant deaths approach, those anniversaries can be extra difficult. The 12th anniversary of my dad’s death is just a few weeks away, and I miss him more than I thought I would. My children are on awesome adventures that I am sure would have pleased him. This prompted me to again think critically about some of our cultural assumptions about grief. There are many varieties of “You should not still be grieving the death of someone you loved more than a year after their death,” or “Death happens: get over it.”
Grief is very much an individual process, and it is not a straight-line process. We do not go through the stages of grief once. Instead, any of these stages can emerge at any time. It is not wrong to have any of these emotional responses, but it is not helpful to let the painful ones control our lives. I believe we need to embrace them, seek to understand them, love those parts of ourselves that prompt those feelings, and then find a helpful way to move forward.
My dad would have enjoyed each of my children’s accomplishments and adventures, but he is not here to do that. I am. My love for my dad pushes me to be extra aware of the good in their lives, and to make an extra effort to enjoy them and to be glad for my children. When I miss him, I need to do those things that we did together, from fishing to handyman projects, and be glad for how he had a role in my being able to do these things. He might not be with me now, but the parts of himself that he gave to me in knowledge, skills, interests, and attitudes are.
If grief causes me to feel tired, then, for a little while, I need to take time to rest and choose activities that lift my spirits. On Family Day, we went to Big Hill Springs Park, a place he never took us, but a place I am sure he would have enjoyed. The boisterously flowing water, intriguing natural ice sculptures, sun, and the cheerfulness of all the people out there combined to boost my spirits and take away some of the fatigue.
It is important to be kind to ourselves and to others at all times, and especially so during times of grief. And it can help to be confident that God is with us at all times, providing the comfort we need when we are ready to accept it.