by Susan Drevitch Kelly, October 13, 2023

There are so many books that have been written on grief and loss, and many different models to describe the grief process and the various phases that you will experience during this difficult journey. Probably the most well-known and widely recognized is the Five Stages of Loss and Grief Model developed by the Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

She initially developed this model based on her work with terminally ill patients and her observations of the common phases these patients experienced with the progression of their diagnosis, disease and inevitable death. She introduced this groundbreaking model in her book, On Death and Dying, [1969].

This Five Stage Model [denial; anger; regrets/what ifs; profound sadness; acceptance] has come to be recognized as a model for also describing the stages experienced during the grieving process. Kubler-Ross expounds on this in her final book, On Grief and Grieving [2004].

Yet, there are other ways of looking at your grief experience and understanding the various physical, emotional, and spiritual reactions your grief creates as you try to recover and heal from your loss.

As New Englanders, we are well versed in the various seasons of the year, the signs of each season, and the emotions experienced as we transition from one season to the next. James E Miller, a clergyman and grief counselor/retreat leader, has used this to develop a novel model of relating the grief process to the seasons of the year, which he presents in his book, Seasons of Grief and Healing [2000].

We are currently experiencing the autumn season, with all of the signs and changes in nature. The days are shorter, the nights are longer. There seems to be more darkness than light. There is more rain, and rapid swings in temperature with cold mornings and evenings. The birds are flying south, the boats are leaving the harbor, the trees are shedding their leaves, summer gardens are dying, and even the perennials are waning and beginning to turn brown. The earth is transitioning from the colorful displays of summer to the bareness and brown shades of autumn.

Miller suggests that we envision the early stages of our grief as the season of autumn. “There is a sob to autumn…the sob of loss.” What was once living, dies. What was once vibrant, withers. What was once abundant, fades away. Autumn almost catches us by surprise each year. It’s as if someone flicks a switch and suddenly everything around you and your life has changed. The same is so true when you experience a profound loss, especially if it is sudden. In a moment, your life is changed forever. You are shocked, cold, numb. Your days are dark, lonely and seem to last far too long.

And yet, there are signs of hope when autumn appears. Just as we trust in the cycles of the seasons, just as we are certain that the birds will come back in the spring, the boats will reappear in the harbor, perennials will bloom again, we need to trust in the process of healing from our grief and loss.

As you move through the various “seasons” of grief, you will slowly begin to adjust to your “new world.” You will begin to shift your focus from your loss to the love you shared with the person you lost. You will slowly begin to replace your overwhelming grief with profound gratitude for all the memories and milestones you created together. Your deep hurt with slowly transform into hope for a life after your loss.

Although there are many changes in the autumn season, there is also beauty in the fall colors, in the brilliance of the sunshine. There is comfort in the smell of burning leaves or hot cider. There is peace in the quiet beaches and empty harbors. There is beauty in each season of the year. And trust that there can be peace, contentment and beauty in your life once again.

Susan Drevitch Kelly has dual BS degrees in Biology and Chemistry, Summa cum Laude, Suffolk University, Masters and Post-graduate studies in Psychobiology, Harvard University and over 40 years of experience guiding private clients and workshop groups through major life transitions. She is passionate about helping people redefine themselves and discover new meaning and purpose in their lives. Susan facilitates two grief support groups at the Scituate Senior Center: Grieve Not Alone for recent loss and Riding the Wave for continuing grief. She can be reached at