Summer is a season for being outdoors and enjoying the warmth. This is especially true for those of us living in northern states. Flowers start blooming and the fields are full. Trees are green and the sounds and smells of summer waft through the air. The sun shines. Birds sing. Kids are out of school. Life is good.
All of these ideas of summer are normally positive for people. However, grief can be very different. Summer is often the most difficult season for people mourning because of good memories of their loved one and because of the expectations of increased happiness during the summer time. This is especially true for children. It is important to remember that mourning and grieving do not have a timeline. It is okay to feel sad and happy at the same time. Remind your children that experiencing more than one emotion at a time is okay. They have permission to be sad and miss their beloved one who passed away and still be happy to be out of school and playing with friends.
Here are a few ways to help you and your family move through summer while grieving:
Spend time outdoors
However you decide to do it, spend some time outside. Being in the sunshine increases the Vitamin D within you as you soak in the rays. Vitamin D has been shown to help stimulate endorphins which help us feel better. Just sitting on the deck for 15 – 30 minutes a day during the morning sunshine can make a big difference in the weight of your grief.
Plan a vacation weekend
This may feel counterintuitive to you, however, getting out of your normal space may help lift your spirits. Go to a place you loved going with your deceased loved one and remember the good times. Spend time revisiting your old favorite spots. Or on the other hand, go to a new place. Find a new favorite spot with a friend. See new sites and taste new tastes. It may require extra effort but getting outside of your routine and trying new things can help alleviate grief. You are allowed and encouraged to find enjoyment in life again.
Try your favorite summer activities in a new way
Try out the activities you have enjoyed during past summers. See if they still fit with who you are as you grieve. Did you enjoy swimming? Perhaps go to a new lake or pool to swim. How about bird watching? Find a new place to find birds you haven’t seen yet. Hiking and biking are ways many spend their summer downtime. Explore new trails and new paths. Take a picnic with you. You can do all of these alone or with other people. Sometimes alone is good! Sometimes being with others helps and makes life better. Try both!
Create a new tradition honoring your loved one
Traditions bring great comfort to us all. Develop a new summer tradition around honoring your loved one. My favorite idea is to plant a tree each year in honor of my loved ones. Another idea is to add a special garden area to your garden each year as a memorial to my loved one. Kids especially need tradition and finding a summer family tradition of remembering may help them the most.
Finally, allow yourself to be kind to yourself and others. If you are feeling sad, accept the sadness. If you are happy, accept the happiness. Be kind to yourself as you experience the ever-changing emotions during mourning. Do what is best for yourself and for your family.