It’s Summertime and the Living’s Easy… Unless You’re Grieving a Loved One
By Jill S. Cohen, NYC family grief counselor
Here we are in the midst of summertime. Despite also being amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there are variations of barbecues, swim outings, poolside cocktails, and outdoor sports. The days are long and from sunrise to sunset, there is an emphasis on enjoying the fun of the summer season, with a big cheerful smile on your face. After all, it’s summertime and the living’s easy, as the old saying goes.
But what if you were just hit with the most awful experience of a lifetime? Your loved one has died. Grief can be more intense in the summertime because it looks like everyone except for you, is out there having a great time. Especially in the first summer after a loss, the absence of that summer joy can be felt very acutely.
Wintertime grieving somehow feels easier for people, since their mood matches the darkness of the days, the bitter cold temperatures (depending upon where you live), and the “indoors” mentality during the season.
However, whether you want it or not, summer is here.
Here are some thoughts that might give you some perspective as you navigate the next few sunny months.
UNDERSTAND that it’s okay to not want to spend the summer months feeling festive and celebratory.
UNDERSTAND that it’s okay to indulge in your favorite summertime activities, even though you are grieving. Enjoy yourself does NOT mean you are not grieving. It does NOT mean that you stopped loving or missing your loved one. It means that you are willing to still try to do what you enjoying. After all, you are still alive.
UNDERSTAND that healing begins with taking care of yourself too. That includes getting fresh air as well as vitamin D from the sun, taking advantage of the nice weather to take a walk and get moving a little. Fresh air and outdoors can sometimes clear your head too, and make feel a little less heavy during tough times.
BE CREATIVE. On a good day, you want to take a favorite activity and do it in a special way to honor your loved one. If you spend some playing tennis with him or her, try to play a game or two and do it in their honor. If the summer included at least one night of lobster rolls or soft ice cream cones, treat yourself to whatever it is that made summer memorable for you. It’s okay to enjoy something even if your loved one can no longer do so.
TRY SOMETHING NEW. Decide to start a new summer ritual. Make new memories with new people. If you feel up to it, take a trip. Meet new people. Take up a new activity. It will help lift your spirits in a healthy way.
REMEMBER that summers will get better. Grief feels like it will ever end, but it will ease up, lessen, and become less painful as time goes by.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, let yourself do whatever makes you feel as okay as you can feel.
The one thing about summer is that there are not many rules. Take each day as it comes and do what comes naturally. One smart move might be to look for a support group so that you can find a group of like-minded people going through the summer grief experience too.
And it might be a good time to seek out a grief counselor too. My clients have told me that it’s helpful to have some support as they try to navigate the season in its “new normal” and have a space to vent the “un-sunny” side of yourself that grief has given you.