By Susan Drevitch Kelly

Life Transition Coach

Spring is slow to arrive, with its disappointing setbacks of cold and blustery or rainy days arriving just after a few days of “teasing” warmth and sun. So, too, is your healing and recovery from a profound loss a slow process, full of backsliding, setbacks and dark days, just when you thought you were doing better and moving forward.

In 1995, James E Miller, a clergyman, photographer, and grief counselor, wrote a book, “Winter Grief, Summer Grace,” to present a different model for understanding the grief process. He attempts to help the griever understand the grieving process through the lens of the changing seasons, from autumn and winter to spring, and finally, summer.

Spring is upon us. All of the barren trees and landscape are now bursting with color, a full palette of pinks, purples, and yellows. Trees are replacing red buds with beautiful leaf greenery. The Earth is going through a marvelous transformation before our eyes. Spring is a time of hope, rebirth, and renewal. And so is the springtime of your grief. You, too, are transforming, although you may not feel it or immediately recognize it.

We can learn lessons from nature and this natural process of rebirth. Just as there are signs all around us that spring is here, so, too, are there signs that you are healing and slowly emerging from your dark days of grief, the winter phase of grief.   

Although the journey through grief and loss to recovery and reconstruction is a slow, painful one, and often feels like a “one step forward and two steps back” process, you are healing, you are transforming, and you are emerging from the dark days of grief.

So how do you know this, you might ask? Here are some of the signs, in no particular order, that demonstrate the progress you are making:

Acknowledgement: You are in touch with mortality and the finality of your loved one’s death. You now know in your heart that your loved one is truly gone and will never return.

Memories: In early grief, memories are painful because they remind you of how much you have lost. Now it feels good to remember, and you look for people to share memories with.

Solo time: You can enjoy time alone and feel comfortable. You no longer need to have family or friends around you all the time, or look for activities and events to keep you distracted.

It’s OK to say no: You make your own decisions on what you chose to do. You are no longer feel obligated to say yes to every invitation, or agree to do things just to keep busy or “appear normal” to family and friends.

• Laugh: You can enjoy a joke or have a good laugh without feeling guilty

• Eat/sleep: Your eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns return. Even if they are not quite what they used to be, you are able to return to patterns that are healthy.

• Exhaustion: You no longer feel tired all the time.

• Thoughts: There are times during the day when you have not thought of your loved one. When this first happens, you may panic, thinking, “I am forgetting.” This is not true. You will never forget. You are giving yourself permission to go on with your life and your loved one would want you to do this.

• Tell your story: You can finally talk about your loved one, say their name, share the circumstances surrounding their death, without crying and being totally distraught.

• Gratitude: You are able to replace your grief with gratitude and find things to be thankful for each day. You always knew there were good things going on in your life, but they didn’t matter much before.

It is important for your recovery to identify and recognize signs that you are improving, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, by looking at these signs, ideally journaling about them, you can begin to validate that you are making progress. The healing process is taking place, whether or not you realize it or feel it.

Every step you take, even the little ones, propel you forward toward recovery and rebuilding your life. Every sign provides proof that you can endure hard, difficult times in life, and you will survive.

You will regain your footing. You will begin to feel hopeful. You will transform into a new life filled with possibilities and opportunities to live life again, as your loved one would want you to.

And, with spring arriving, we know that summer is just around the corner.