A different kind of winter

Last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking. Specifically, I was thinking about Easter and spring and all of the ideas that come with those events. The meanings we’ve tied to them are a lot to reckon with.

A lot of it gets painted over with cartoon bunnies and pastel everything, but the roots go much deeper. Spring, and for those who celebrate, Easter, are times of rebirth and new things. But that newness necessarily comes from death and cold and darkness.

And so many of us have spent too long trying to gloss over that bit instead of greeting it face to face. There is a certain grief, in winter.

Now, as we’re in a time of year where new growth is supposed to emerge, the whole world has been thrust into an unforeseen grief of a different sort. Lives lost, loved ones missed, loneliness and anxiety often settling in. It’s quiet, and it’s brutal. And we don’t really know when the spring will come.

I have been finding solace in little places, like the hummingbird feeders outside my windows, and the feeling of tiredness in my hands after physical work. But the difficult times seep in when sometimes I don’t expect it. Like last night when, after trying for a while to scoot it outside, my husband killed a wasp that got stuck between our sliding glass doors. I don’t much care for wasps and wasn’t the one who killed it, but I still grieved its death when freedom seemed so close.

Lyz Lenz wrote an exceptionally poignant article about Holy Saturday and “sitting with the broken pieces.” And in this weird time where the world is hurting, we are all grieving, and the weather marching toward spring seems so deeply incongruous, I am trying to just sit with pain and the worry and let it be instead of forcing it away, knowing that in time it may grow into something new.

I wrote the piece below on Saturday, trying to let all of these ideas just be in my head and in my body, without insisting on any resolution.

Today I spend hours on my patio, on my knees. I am repotting all my plants. Some are root-bound and placed in larger pots. Some have soil that has become too densely packed from watering, or have even rotted. Some do not like being forced from their homes and their steady little lives, and will take time to recover. I fill an empty planter bed with soil. I mix in fertilizer, and I water. It is slow work even on a small garden. It is clean, fresh air and rich, heavy earth.

It is mourning, and it is hope. It is all I can offer today in a universe of mysteries, that when we are suffering and when nothing has gone as we expected, we are still here. That the echoes of death and life are all around us, whether tomorrow turns the tide or not. And it starts to make sense that we plant flowers each year, knowing they will fade and eventually need to be planted again.

So to simply be, today, in everything that means, is enough.

I hope this offered something helpful in the midst of a very strange time. Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and may peace settle in a little deeper for you today.


Loss & grief

Today’s post is a little less than chipper, but unfortunately it’s a topic that’s inevitable. I have a huge family and a lot of friends that feel like family, and though I feel really lucky to not have experienced more loss than I have, I’m no stranger to it. My guess is that no one reading this is.

The upside is that this means other people know what you’re going through. The bad part is that does nothing to change the fact that it sucks. Unfortunately, emerging adulthood is a time of life when loss tends to be more common than it was in younger years, and can be even more difficult to deal with when so much else in life is uncertain or in transition.

But there are some things that can help:

  • Get a hug. Comforting physical touch — or even just being next to someone — makes a huge difference. It gives you someone to lean on, reminds you you’re not alone, and can actually lower your heart rate and release oxytocin (aka it lowers stress and stimulates bonding).
  • Don’t bottle up emotions. It’s bad for you in pretty much every way. Instead, give yourself some time to feel all those things, and then temporarily set them aside when you have to.
  • Write your way out, or whatever that looks like for you. Honestly any tactile hobby can be a good way to keep your conscious mind occupied while your subconscious mind processes the information. When I’ve lost family members in the past, I usually wrote a poem or two and/or journaled, but you can cook or craft or do anything that gives you something to focus on.
  • Talk to someone about it. There’s no rush on this. It’s when you’re ready, as much as you’re ready for. This can be a friend or family member, a mental health professional, or even your pet. Sometimes just speaking is a good way to process your feelings, and though no one knows exactly how you feel, almost everyone knows what loss feels like.
  • Find a metaphor. Unfortunately, pain is one of those things that is nearly impossible to accurately describe — the only thing to compare it to is more pain. But that can be enough. For me, grief is like waves. It comes and goes; sometimes I have my head above water and sometimes I feel like I’m drowning; sometimes I’m being pushed down or tumbled; sometimes I can’t see anything else until I wait for it to ebb. It’s often calm on the outside, but always dangerous under the surface.
  • Get outside. Go to the park or look at the stars, whatever. But fresh air will do a lot more for a heavy heart than we often give it credit for.
  • Do or buy a small thing that reminds you of them. Don’t go crazy out of budget here, but if it’s flowers or a small decoration, or going to a particular place they loved to visit, the reminder can help you focus on the happy part of knowing them instead of just the loss.

Grief is a process, and it will take time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Admittedly I’ve even had to write this post in pieces, because sometimes I’d be midsentence and all the feelings the topic brings up would crash on me for a little while.

Whether you’re dealing with recent loss or not, I hope these tips prove helpful for others as they have for me. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear what things have helped you handle loss in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.