New Beginnings in the Winter Stillness

Author: Erin Jacobson

When we journey into winter, a new rhythm emerges. Nature’s pace slows down; the earth becomes more still and turns inward. Animals go into hibernation; the fallen leaves return to the soil to nourish new growth; snow covers the hardened ground. Darkness comes early in the afternoons, closing out our days much sooner than the hazy evenings of summer. We, too, take our cues from nature, beginning instinctively to look inward. We take stock of where we have been and sift through thoughts of where we want to go. This takes courage. The work of the winter season isn’t as showy as the work of the spring, but it is just as important. 

This New Year, instead of glibly making a quick resolution or two, honor this process by setting aside time to listen to what’s happening internally. It can be scary to take an honest look at our lives and assess where we are; this is especially true when the loss of a loved one is involved. Fear and pain are powerful motivators to shut down the part of us that wants to dream. But change is possible. New, good things can and will come again. We don’t have to give into believing that what happens to us is the most important part of our story. What would it be like to choose new dreams or new purpose, even in our grief? What would it be like to dare to dream of something new?

Winter Forest Scene

Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths in and out. Imagine what your life would be like in the best possible scenario. Bring to your mind’s eye what that might look like. What are the things that surround you? What emotions do you feel? How does your body feel? Who are the people in your life? What are you doing? What is making you happy? What do you touch, taste and hear? Make that picture as clear and as specific as possible. Home in on one or two things that are the most important to you in this new vision of your life. When the time is right, open your eyes and write down what you see for yourself. Include the details that you see and write them down clearly. This step is important so that as time goes on and the difficulty of change comes calling, you can remind yourself of what that best possible self looks like. 

Two other helpful practices you can utilize in reminding you of your goals are the creation of vision boards and intention bracelets. To create a vision board, find a few old magazines, scissors, glue and a large piece of craft paper. Watercolor paper and poster board are both sturdy choices to use but any paper will work. To begin, flip through the magazines and notice words and images that remind you of the vision you wrote down of what you want your life to look like. Rip out anything that resonates without thinking too much about it. If you don’t end up using everything, that is fine. It is more important to have a selection from which to choose. Once you feel like you have enough, begin to sort through them to create a picture of what you want to manifest in your life. Some people use primarily words and others create ones mostly made up of pictures, so everyone’s vision board is different. There is no right or wrong way to create the board; this is about you and a visual reminder of what you want. Have fun with it and let your creative juices flow! Once you’ve completed your vision board, put it up in your home in a place where you see it daily to help encourage you to maintain a connection with your intentions. 

Intention bracelets can be powerful daily reminders. Although it’s possible to use an existing piece of jewelry, it is more powerful to create something specifically for this purpose. It can be as simple as tying a band of leather around your wrist or as intricate as creating a bracelet from beautiful beads or materials from your local craft store. Again, this is about you and giving tools to help you on your path. When you look at your bracelet, it is a constant reminder of taking the steps needed to reach your goal. 

The final step in creating successful change is to include others in your plan. Talk to one or two trusted people in your life and tell them what you are working toward. Develop a plan with them to help get you there. None of us can do this work on our own. We need others to walk along the journey with us to help along the way. As the winter season goes on and shifts into the next season, your internal growth will begin to emerge along with the buds of spring.

Erin Jacobson is Senior Advisor, TAPS Outreach and Engagement and the surviving fiancée of Cpl. Jason Kessler, U.S. Army.