Much of the United States has had a long, harsh, and cold winter. While it seemed like it would never end, some of us are starting to see the light of spring.
Winter can be a perfect representation of the darkness and despair that we feel from time to time. Whether it is grief associated with death, a trauma that we had to endure, or the end of a relationship, we all have had experiences of darkness and despair that feel never-ending.
But when you have lived long enough and seen enough winters, you know that the despair and darkness do not last forever. There comes a time when the pain recedes, is not all-consuming, and you have a desire to live life again.
The process of re-emerging into life can be challenging. When you have been wearing the cloak of sadness, grief, or depression for so long, it can feel strange to walk through the world without it. You may even experience a cultural shock, in a sense. Coming back into the world can seem different and even strange.
Just as it takes time to deal with a difficult emotion, it takes time to adjust to its leaving you. It is a process of recognizing that the pain is no longer all-consuming. There are steps you can take to help you navigate this re-emergence:
Reach out to your support system. Many people retreat into isolation when they are struggling with depression or grief; it is necessary to reconnect with people and activities you previously enjoyed. Rather than let the shame or embarrassment of being out of touch stop you from reconnecting, speak to it. Call a friend and acknowledge that you were out of touch. Apologize and tell him or her why it’s been so long since you called. Let the person know that his or her friendship is important to you.
As you reconnect with people and activities, you will need to take time to review what you came through. Think about the grief and sadness that you experienced. Consider how you dealt with it. Ask yourself:
- How did I get through the grief? What did I do?
- Who helped me through this rough time?
- What do I need now to continue my healing?
Reviewing the depression and grief can be scary; it might feel as if you will fall right back into the despair. But the contrary is true. Reviewing your sadness allows you to see your resiliency and how you survived. It also provides an opportunity to consider options you may try in the future when facing challenges.
Finally, it is time to rest. People often wonder, “What do I need to rest for? I was just in my bed/house for two months!” Grief and sadness are exhausting. Recuperating from them is a necessary part of the healing process. Allow your body to be active as you re-engage with the world, but also let your emotions rest, as they have been on a roller coaster of sadness, darkness, and re-emergence to light.
Taking the time to process and come out of the darkness is a foundational tool that you can use throughout your lifetime. When life is challenging, as it will be, you will not only survive it but come through in a way that is healing and compassionate toward yourself.
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