Grief Journal of Dr. Donaldson: The Season of Grief

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Everyone has their own “grief season.” For me, it starts right after September when the light starts to shift from the golden rays of summer into the soft streams of fall. It is a time of anticipation and dread of the upcoming holidays and of the death anniversary of my husband.

Trick or Treat

Halloween was my husband’s favorite holiday. It was also the last holiday we shared with him. He loved dressing up in costume, getting scared in haunted houses, taking the kids trick-or-treating and, of course, eating the candy. I wholeheartedly joined him in the love of this holiday. This was always the time of year when I made pumpkin-themed EVERYTHING from soups and bread to seeds and beverages. The pictures and memories of this time of year brim with so much joy, laughter and family togetherness.

All Hallows’ Eve 

Now, however, this wonderful and exciting time of year has morphed. For the first few years of widowhood, the idea of staying in town was too difficult, so I traveled. I celebrated Halloween doing things that he and I never did. In this way, I thought I could protect myself from some of the pain of missing him. Of course, it did not work that way. It it did help somewhat, and in the process, I developed some new traditions.

“This is Halloween…”

Slowly, I started baking and cooking pumpkin-themed foods again. Since Halloween was his favorite holiday, I now do things to honor him like buying his favorite candy and putting up pictures of us in costume. After traveling to Mexico one year for Dia de los Muertos, I have incorporated some of the cultural traditions related to death during this time of year. For example, I moved the “alter” I have for him in the living room into the den for the season. Instead of visiting his grave on the day of his death, I will now go on Halloween…possibly in costume (because he would think that would be hilarious!).

The Turning of the Wheel

Some of these changes began after I decided I needed to take back this time of year. I needed to take it back from the paralyzing feelings of grief and dread and despair. Focusing only on grief had begun to taint the joyful memories we had created together. I know I will still feel sad at times and continue grieving. This will probably always be a bittersweet time of year for me. However, I am now actively working to make space for new memories for me and for joy during this season of grief.

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