Winter is Coming: 64 tips for grieving through the winter blues

Okay, so it may feel like we are jumping the gun with a post about winter blues on the first day of fall, but we have good reason.  I promise.  Weather can have a real impact on mood and coping, whether you like it or not.  There are those of you who love the dark and cold and snow, I know.  I can’t relate, but I know you exist.  For you, this post may seem completely unnecessary.  But for the rest of us, getting through the fall and winter months is tough, even without grief.  Layer loss on top of that and it can complicate matters tremendously.

winter-is-coming

The problem with waiting for winter to talk about winter is that, by the time it comes, it has already started zapping motivation and energy.  A while back Eleanor wrote a post about why winter is the worst for grievers.  You may want to check that out for more info on why winter can be so tough.  Today we are focusing less on the ‘why’ and more on the quick tips for what you can do.  Planning is crucial and it needs to start now, while the sun is still shining, so you are emotionally prepped when the darkness and cold hit.  These are just a few of our ideas for coping with the winter blues, so please keep the list going by adding your own in the comments!

Oh, PS, we know 64 tips is a lot.  It might feel a little overwhelming.  But people are different, needs are different, what works for one person doesn’t work at all for another person.  So 64 tips it is.

  1. Write a list of winter activities you enjoy, so you can refer to it when the hibernation funk sets in (some ideas coming below).
  2. Write a list of indoor projects you want to accomplish this winter, to keep you motivated and inspired (some ideas coming below).
  3. Create a scrapbook or memory book in honor of your loved one.
  4. Start working on the memorial or legacy project you have been wanting to do (a memorial celebration, scholarship fund, memorial walk, etc).
  5. Make a list of people you have lost touch with that you want to reach out to by phone, email or social media.
  6. Make a plan to start sorting through your loved one’s belongings, if you have been putting it off and want to do it.
  7. Go through and organize, scan, print, etc old photographs (of your loved one or otherwise).
  8. Set some TV boundaries – some TV is a great, healthy escape.  Too much TV can become a fall/winter hibernation problem.
  9. Make a list of shows and movies you really want to watch, so when you are watching TV it is things you really enjoy/value and not just mindless channel surfing.
  10. Stock up on puzzles.
  11. Stock up on books.
  12. Stock up on materials for arts, crafts, etc.
  13. Stock up on games.
  14. If winter really gets you down, consider a light box designed for seasonal affective disorder.
  15. Sign up for a class at a local community college, community center, or library to keep you motivated and get you out of the house.
  16. Sign up for an online class (we have some grief courses here and the internet is filled with TONS of other courses on anything you can think of!).
  17. Start scheduling regular get-togethers with good friends or family for coffee or dinner.
  18. Consider volunteering somewhere meaningful to you or your loved one.
  19. If you can afford it, get a really good warm coat and boots that will make it a little easier to face the cold when motivation is low.
  20. Plan for indoor exercise options that you enjoy, if you know you won’t get outdoors to workout.  Consider DVDs, YouTube videos, or a home exercise machine.
  21. Try not to cancel plans.  Sometimes you have to, for self-care, but be careful when it becomes a pattern.
  22. If it is in the budget, plan a mid-winter vacation somewhere warm and sunny to give yourself a break and something to look forward to.
  23. Join a book club (email us if you want to join the WYG online book club).
  24. Join an in-person support group.  (Read our considerations about groups here)
  25. Join an online support group. (Again, read our considerations about groups here).
  26. Start a blog (or keep blogging!).
  27. Start journaling (or keep journaling!).
  28. Make meal plans to try to keep your eating on track.
  29. Make healthy grocery lists and stick to them, to avoid filling the house with junk comfort food.
  30. Challenge yourself to learn to cook and bake, especially healthy meals, if your normal go-to is microwave meals or carry out.
  31. If it is your first winter filling winter “roles” your loved one used to fill, get prepared before the need arises.  Some tips for this specifically are to ask yourself:
  32. Do you know where the snow shovel, sidewalk salt, ice scraper, snowblower, etc are and how to use them?  If not, plan in advance who can teach you or do it for you when needed.
  33. Do you know how to light/start your furnace?  If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance.
  34. Are you able to get winter clothes out of an attic/basement, etc.  If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance.
  35. Do you know how to put on snow tires or tire chains on your car?  If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance
  36. Plan for who will fill holiday roles, like shopping, decorating, and meal preparation.
  37. Keep alcohol in check.  If you drink, set reasonable limits and stick to them.
  38. Get outside for a little bit when it is sunny, even if it cold.  Sunlight helps you physically and psychologically.
  39. Keep a daily gratitude journal with at least one gratitude a day, so you can focus on some of the good things about life in the cold winter months.
  40. Open your blinds and curtains during the day to let in as much natural light as possible.
  41. Trim back tree branches that are blocking light from windows.
  42. Use a light alarm to wake up in the morning.
  43. Make a list of outside-the-house indoor activities you enjoy to refer to in the winter when you are struggling with ideas or motivation.  Some suggestions are:
  44. Go to a museum.
  45. Go to a play.
  46. Go to a concert.
  47. Go to a local lecture.
  48. Go to a movie.
  49. Join a rec indoor winter sports team, like basketball, indoor soccer, indoor lacrosse, etc.
  50. Make a list of outside-the-house outdoor activities you enjoy to refer to in the winter when you are struggling with ideas or motivation.  Some suggestions are:
  51. Go ice skating.
  52. Go skiing, snow tubing, or snowboarding.
  53. Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
  54. Go snowmobiling.
  55. Ask a friend for support if you are struggling with motivation by asking them to join you in one of the above activities both for company and to make you less likely to cancel.
  56. Listen to music, specifically music that cheers you up and boosts your mood.  Start making playlists now!
  57. Keep to a good sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time as often as possible.
  58. Make evening plans right after work, so you are less likely to fall into the trap of going home, losing motivation from the dark and cold, and canceling.
  59. Be self-aware about external factors that are impacting your mood.  Does watching the news get you down? Skip it.  Does social media make you feel connected and positive?  Then get online! Does it make you feel frustrated, negative or annoyed? Then skip it or limit it.
  60. Start to learn a new language through a class, software or online.
  61. Learn how to meditate through a class, online guided meditations, or an app.
  62. If you are struggling to keep your head above water, talk to a therapist who can help with your individual needs.
  63. Be honest about the impact of the seasons on mood, even if the seasons have never been a challenge before.  If you felt like you were finally having more good days than bad in your grief and suddenly you are having more bad days than good, consider whether the weather is a factor and if some of the above might help.
  64. Cut yourself some slack.  There will be days you don’t manage a single thing on this list, and that’s okay.  You will have the chance to try again tomorrow.Like articles about grief and tips for coping?  Sign up to subscribe and get a weekly email with our latest posts right to your inbox.   
March 28, 2017

8 responses on "Winter is Coming: 64 tips for grieving through the winter blues"

  1. So glad to have this list to inspire me to keep going. My dad died suddenly on a snowy day in February, just an hour after we had lunch. I can’t believe it’s already back to winter again so fast. The winters where I live are long enough without grief. I’m already following many of the tips on the list, and they’ve been very helpful. It’s all about staying distracted and busy with creative outlets now, otherwise I find my mood plummeting.

  2. My husband and I have been grieving the loss of our only two children over the past 11 years. It’s become ‘new normal’ but is tuff none the less. We grieve quite differently. He escapes into television. I escape outdoors so winter brings some anxiety for me, being cooped up. I’m thinking a routine run to the library for fresh reading material will be good for me (us). Consider also the importance of staying well hydrated during the winter months. I live in Indiana and don’t love winter outdoors and can start to feel really dry w the furnace running constantly. i have a favorite decaf tea, a favorite mug. Fitness is key for me as well. i rarely WANT to do it but once I do, I am better emotionally. A fresh coat of paint in a room is a great pick me up as well during our long winters.

  3. I moved to Florida this past June and this will be my first Fall and Winter in a warmer climate. I am from Illinois where 30 below wind chill and many dark/cloudy days are common. My son died on a very cold day January 22, 2016. I think of him in the cold after rehab put him out and he relapsed and overdosed. It pains me to think that given a warmer climate he may not have felt all was so dark and hopeless. Sunny days here in Florida will be nice come winter but I think I may miss the beautiful snow.
    The cold may remind me of his last day so it’s good I will not experience that reminder.

  4. I feel similarly to Barbara. Winter makes me lazy, fat and depresssed but summer is worse for me. I hate the heat and humidity. Warm, sunny days–peaceful and nice–are the hardest for me. I feel such serenity the urge to self-harm is overwhelming. I’m not sure exactly why. Many of my family members have died during the summer(I’m not 40 yet even) and I have a lot of summer loss, grief and trauma. My counselor is working with me to get to the cause with CBT and EMDR.
    Still, winter is just exceedingly hard to survive year after year. It feels overwhelming just to leave the house because of the snow and cold, not to mention the months of darkness.
    I’m attempting to sell my house and move to warmer, sunnier climate but finding the right spot is difficult. If I have to tough out one more winter here, I’ll def use these tips–I’ve already planned to be on a beach for the holidays…it doesn’t cost a lot and it would be well worth it.
    Thanks for the great tips!

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Yes, funny that you both mention this as I was thinking as I wrote this post that we should offer one for summer next year too, for many of the reasons you described! Glad that maybe the winter will be a small reprieve for you both from the challenges of the summer and best wishes finding a home in a warmer climate!

  5. Summer has been harder for me since my husband died a year and a half ago. Summer is when everyone is outside, walking, bike riding, hiking, swimming. Sitting outside on their deck with a cocktail, working in the garden. Now, I have to watch everyone one else do all these things while I’m alone. In the winter, people are inside early, not out having fun. I can take a hot bath and go to bed earlier. The dark and cold fits my mood.

    • All four seasons hold specific triggerdates for me. I feel as if there is always something right around the corner to spike my grief. My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with complicated grief as I have additional emotional issues with which I have grappled for years. Clinical depression shows up in sunshine or in rain…

    • This will be my first winter without my husband. I’ve never been alone. I’m afraid and so lonely. People gave up asking me to go out because I kept turning them down. I consider living a waiting game to die. Winter was always my favourite season; now it scares me.

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