Halloween is over. We’ve taken off our costumes, put away our spiderwebs, and divvied up our candy (what’s left of it anyway). It’s officially autumn, and the leaves in my neighborhood are finally starting to turn and drift to the earth. It is a time of transition, moving us from the heat and humidity of summer into crisp, cool days and lengthening nights. Summer break ends, school resumes, and we move ever closer to winter. I love the fall, and I am happy to pull out chunky sweaters, cozy loungewear, and my ever-increasing collection of boots.
Fall is often a time of year that seems to bring certain things to the forefront that were able to lie dormant over the summer months. As the leaves die in multicolored glory and the trees become more and more bare, some people begin to struggle. Old pains return to the surface, and recurrent worries about change, the future, and loss begin to splash around again. Fall, preceding the quiet cold and seeming death of winter, can stir up waves of grief.
Grief wears many faces. It is seen in the angry tears of a teen who fears the changes that come to her friend group as some leave for college, others partner up, and some simply drift away. It speaks through the recurrent, haunting dreams of unresolved relationship fractures that may never be healed. It appears in the formless melancholy of going to a job that gives you no joy, while facing the bitter realization that your career as a professional athlete is a closed door that you can no longer walk through. It is facing the painful truth about trusted people from your childhood who turn out not to be who you thought they were. Grief wears many faces.
Grief can linger beneath the surface, shadowy and ephemeral, hard to pinpoint and harder to stop. We tell ourselves we’re silly to still be harping on that old pain, that we need to just Elsa that shit and let it go. But it’s not that easy, and the parts of us that need to mourn will do so whether we want them to or not. Grief is not a thing to be squashed, sidestepped, or ignored, as tempting as that may be. In order to heal, our parts that mourn must be felt. Embraced. Loved.
Our mourning parts hold the pain of unfulfilled promises, missed potential, hopes that did not come to pass. They carry our love for those we have lost, our angst at unresolved conflicts, our once pristine picture of the life we expected to lead. Our mourning parts see the world we wanted to create, and bring value to that world by honoring its loss.
Grief is painful, and grief is beautiful. It is a mark of the love we carried and carry for what we lose. As leaves die and fall from trees in a beautiful riot of color, we can honor our losses by giving voice to them. Speak for our grieving parts and send compassion instead of criticism. Cherish the memories and embrace the parts of us that weep. You will not mourn forever, and the pain will not always be so severe.
And there’ll come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair
-Mumford and Sons, After the Storm
Main post photo by Antti Paakkonen