Seasons of Grief
Author: Carla Stumpf Patton
In every season, there are challenges and hardships, as well as moments inspired by pure beauty, but it's important to keep our eyes, hearts and perceptions open to those moments when we can experience joy and growth.
Winter may have had us trudging through icy snow to find protective shelter from the gusty, chilling winds of grief. It may have felt dark and lonely with no hope in sight. We may have felt overwhelmed- physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted by the thought that with every step we took in the deep snow, the journey only seemed to get longer and tiresome. Oftentimes, we might be so focused on just simply surviving the winter that we don't take time to stop and look around for signs of life and beauty.
In time, we may move along to touch the first greenery of spring as it appears on a tree or to hear singing of birds in the morning dew. We may experience a sense of renewal and find hope as we realize there are others who share the experience of loss, where we are no longer alone. We may be encouraged, perhaps inspired, by others who have allowed joy to blossom in their lives after a long, difficult winter.
There may come a time when we can touch the shells along the shoreline, have the warmth of the sun upon our face and feel the soft grass under our feet in the summer. We often think of summer as synonymous with freedom, a season which allows us to find freedom in our brokenness. It's a time to pause and take a break as we plan for the road ahead. Maybe we start training for a fall marathon, getting outdoors to move and experience the beauty in motion around us. Maybe we find a space with a cool breeze coming off the ocean to reflect and plan for the future. Maybe we take refuge beneath a shady tree and enjoy moments with others who are in this same season.
We may notice the crisp, cool air and drifting leaves of autumn as a colorful reminder that things are once again changing around us. Trees shed their leaves before they take on the next change or challenge of snowfall. So too, we may find that change is necessary. Sometimes, our values don't look the same anymore. Sometimes, our "address book" of contacts changed after our loss, which can bring sorrow to think of these secondary losses- or this season of change can be seen as a catalyst for the beauty that is to come as we find new purpose and connections with others.
These seasons of grief may not come in any particular order, and changes often come without warning. In the early days of grief, it can feel as if we've been cast into an unfamiliar season, one of mourning that doesn't adhere to any orderly calendar the way many expect. We may see that seasons don't take place in the same order or at the same time for everyone, and therefore, it helps to offer grace with others and ourselves as we navigate the many changing seasons.
As your heart begins to heal, you may find yourself in the next season of your grief where you have grown stronger and are ready to push forward in efforts to reclaim the life you deserve. Whatever path you choose to take along your journey, TAPS will be there offering you care, support and encouragement every step of the way, and as always, a place where you can remember the love, celebrate the life and share the journey.
From the pen of...
Carla Stumpf-Patton, EdD, LMHC, NCC, FT, CCTP, is the Director of Suicide Survivor Services at TAPS and is a subject matter expert in grief, trauma and suicide. Carla is the surviving spouse of Marine Corps Drill Instructor Sgt. Richard Stumpf, a Gulf War veteran who died by suicide in 1994, several days before their only child was born.