As the end of the year approaches the days get shorter and the darkness and cold weather leave many grieving people with too much time. Winter can become the season of isolation. It takes extra effort to “go out” in the winter, as we deal with extra clothes, bad weather and extra hours of darkness. It is a time when we all need to pay attention to our self-care. While it is important to eat healthy and exercise we also need to nurture our souls during this quiet time of year.
Winter can be a great time for reflection and introspection (defined as the observation or examination of one’s own mental and emotional state). Violent deaths are life-changing events for the people who were closest to the person who died. It takes time and effort to sort through the changes and how they affect your future. It also requires you to quiet yourself and look deep inside. Take advantage of the winter months; curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and spend some time doing your grief work.
Recovering takes effort. It is up to each person to decide what they carry forward from the past and what to leave behind. We all need time to feel all the feelings we have, to have those feelings witnessed and validated. But one must also choose to move forward. Failure to make the conscious choice to get better and move forward is essentially choosing to stay stuck and remain a victim of your circumstance.
The many wide ranging feelings about the event can be seductive and keep us stuck. It is easy for homicide victims to stay caught up in the anger around the perpetrator and/or the murder. Doing so keeps us connected to the perpetrator and gives that person a huge amount of our power and energy. That power and energy could be used in healthy and productive ways. Letting go of the intense feelings surrounding the perpetrator should not be confused with forgiving. It is merely being indifferent to those feelings whenever possible. It doesn’t happen over night or without effort.
Likewise suicide survivors can stay pretty tied to the death and the means used to cause it. They can also get caught in the “whys”. It is rare in violent death situations to find all the answers. Most of us have to learn to live with some unanswered questions. It is important to find as many answers as possible. Accidental death victim’s families too can stay very tied to the cause of death. We all need to remember that the death was a very small portion of the victim’s life. Search for ways to remember the life lived and try to put less emphasis on the death.
Remember to count your blessings. We all have many blessings in our lives though they may be harder to identify while one is mourning. Blessings may be as small as a bright sunny day or watching a bird at the feeder or it may be as significant as a family member or friend who shares a memory of the loved one. It’s pretty easy to live in a funk thinking life will never get better and feeling sorry for ourselves, remaining the victim. It is important to look for the positives in life. It is one of the ways we begin to look to the future and to see hope on our horizon. It is how we become survivors.
I challenge you to use the winter months to examine your thoughts and feelings. Look inside your soul. It can be a powerful experience. Take the time to look at old pictures and revisit the memories of your loved one. Write in a journal, some things may be easier to release if they are preserved should you need to revisit them in the future. Decide what is important to you both from the past and in the future. Get to know the person you are becoming. Learn to like yourself as you are now. The violent death may have stolen your future for a while, but the future belongs to you if you’re willing to reach out and take it back.
Will the memories of your loved one prevail, or will you let the memory of “the event” take center stage and push your loved one aside? The choice is yours…and it is a choice.