Summer can be a difficult season for the bereaved. Summer is a time of memory making, vacations, sunlight, swimming, outdoor activities, and fun. For those who are grieving, the summertime mood may not match the mood of the person. We may feel an expectation to be happy and to have fun, but may find it too difficult to enjoy traditional summer activities. Just as the world we live in goes through seasons, so does the grief experience. One of the challenging aspects of grief is that people may feel "out of sync" with the physical seasons. The worldly season may not be expressing the season we are feeling within us.
To quote the Avett Brothers:
They say flowers bloom in Spring
Red and gold and blue and pink
They say seasons turn in time
Theirs are changing
Why won't mine?
It must be winter in my heart
If you have been struggling with grief in the summer, here are some ideas that you might find helpful:
- Plan time to spend with the deceased: It might sound strange, but we often plan to spend time with the important people in our lives. When arranging summer travels and reunions, create some space in your summer for those you love who have died. You can do this by talking about memories, by visiting the cemetery or other memorial site, or by creatively incorporating the deceased into summer traditions.
- Create a memorial for your loved one while on vacation: Some ideas for that might include: write their name in the sand and decorate with shells. Take a hike, collect items in memory of your loved one, and make a nature collage out of those items.
- Experiment with a new summer tradition: You may find that your heart is not into some of your usual summer pastimes, especially if they were ones you traditionally shared with someone who is now dead. This may be a season try something new, to create a new tradition, or to simply permit yourself to lay low. Decide for yourself what you might be ready for.
- Remember that it is okay to have fun: Enjoying the season can also cause some feelings of guilt that your loved one is not there to enjoy it with you. Try to remind yourself and those around you that it is okay and important to do things that spark joy in life. Grief can be expressed through joy as well as sadness, and having fun does not mean we are forgetting or avoiding the memory of those who have died.
- Remember that you are not alone: It may be helpful to find others who may understand what you are going though. Many people find it helpful to participate in a support group with other grieving people. Support groups are offered by hospices, health care organizations, community centers, and faith communities across the country.