Fall is my Grief Season. How about you?

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley



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I’m operating under the influence of fall. It’s a subtle disorientation that knocks me off kilter just enough for things to go sideways. One minute everything’s normal, and the next, I’m crying at a stop light because 15 years ago I didn’t go to see The Devil Wears Prada with my sick mother.

It happens every year, when the cool edge to waning summer nights and school buses taking kids back to school tell my brain it’s time to start ramping up the emotional energy. I agree that fall has its charms, but it’s precisely fall’s best qualities that have become intrinsically tied to my grief. The crispness of the air and rich colors all remind me of death and funerals and lost time.

I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m miserable this time of year; it’s just that the Earth’s rotation has brought me closer to my mother’s absence. I’m closer to the last place I found her. The same place where she left me. When I look into the big blue fall sky, I feel that maybe I could float away and find her–but I don’t because I’m tethered to Earth by so many precious connections now. So I guess it’s that sense of being close, but at the same time further away than ever, that leaves me feeling raw.

Fall is my grief season.


I wonder, do you have a grief season?

At first, it’s hard to distinguish your grief season from the rest of the year because every calendar flip brings painful reminders and secondary losses. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays lie scattered throughout the year like obstacles and impediments you must manage, each for the first time.

You make it through hurdle after hurdle until you finally flip the page and find the first anniversary of your loved one’s death screaming at you from a tiny calendar square. Forget about grief season; you’ve just experienced an entire grief year.

But it isn’t this way forever. I can’t say how it will be for you, but for me, over time, my grief became less intense and more manageable. Though my grief comes out of hibernation in the fall, it’s generally more diffuse, and there are fewer peaks.

It’s typical for grief to change as people adjust to living in a world without their loved ones (while loving them just the same). So most days, your grief may be, at worst, a quiet presence, and there will be periods where grief doesn’t monopolize your attention much at all.

But there will also be days and times when you feel the past pulling you back. And when that happens, you may bathe yourself in memories, re-evaluate and ask new questions, or feel a sense of yearning stronger than you’ve felt in a while. None of these things mean you’re backtracking or not “resolving” your grief. Your experience is normal, trust me. It’s the story we’ve all been sold about grief that’s wrong.


Untrue stories about grief

We don’t need to point fingers or discover why myths like finite grief and “grief resolution” persist; the bottom line is somewhere along the way, our society adopted the idea that proper grieving means working through it until you reach a place where you only feel fine and good. If you don’t feel fine a good, well that means you didn’t work hard enough.

I’ll admit it that I fell for it once upon a time, and I still sometimes fall for it now. I sometimes believe I should be past all this. If I could find better ways to cope, focus on the present, be grateful, find peace with mortality, and feel fewer feelings, I’d permanently reach a place of psychological contentment. But this isn’t how life works — life is constant ups and downs.

The truth is that peace and okayness after loss come when we learn to accept the occasional volatility of a grieving soul. And when we see that grief often isn’t a story with an end, but an experience that continues to ebb and flow. Of course, there are exceptions, but the point is that you’re not alone if you experience a grief season from time to time. 

Humans develop object permanence (the ability to know things exist even when they can’t be seen or heard) before age one. We have long-term memory, and our capacity to love someone can endure, even after we no longer receive tangible expressions of love in return. We don’t have to move on from those we love if we don’t want, and quite often people don’t.


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14 Comments on "Fall is my Grief Season. How about you?"

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  1. Eileen L  September 18, 2022 at 7:56 pm Reply

    Sharon, I very much enjoy the articles you so kindly share with all of us. Please keep me on your list. Thank you very much for sharing . Eileen
    God’s blessings

  2. Catherine  September 17, 2022 at 11:15 pm Reply

    I’ve just come to the end of the first year without my husband of 47 years. I’m not even sure how I started to receive these message but am so grateful that I did. We marked today by being together, myself and our two beautiful daughters. There are so many unspoken feelings that we can’t seem to articulate to each other, being together is enough for us right now. I welcome your messages and find great strength and courage from each email I receive. Thank you!

  3. Sherry Norton  September 17, 2022 at 9:35 am Reply

    My mother died in May of 1996. She hated fall because “that meant winter is coming.”. After watching her suffer for years, then the last weeks….her death was a blessing.

  4. Mark Bailey  September 17, 2022 at 7:14 am Reply

    I am not sure about a grieving season as my mum has only been gone a little over 18 months.

    What I have come to accept is that there are certain double edged triggers in my life. Things which connect me to mum but which I know will stir up my emotions. For example mum loved a slice of carrot cake. I now eat a slice at times, make the connection but feel the loss more intensely during and afterwards. There is an old small church in the heart of the bustling city of Winchester, England. You step inside and it is so quiet. We loved to sit there and be quiet, looking at the wood carving, etc. I enjoy sitting there but at the price of knowing the connection will also stir up my grief.

    I think your last sentences were very true. I do not want to forget my mum, lose my love for her, memories of our precious relationship. I can function in the world, enjoy its beauty, etc, without “getting over my loss”. It is the price I pay for having had a wonderful mum I loved very much. I am starting voluntary work for my own reasons, but also to honour her good name. Why can people not accept it is alright to love a deceased soul, pay the price of some ongoing emotional upset in certain moments being intense, if the individual wants to. Why must it almost be regarded asa personal weakness or character flaw. It use to anger me, now quietly I just pity them because clearly they have never lost a truly loved person in their life.

  5. Robert Muncy  September 16, 2022 at 9:05 pm Reply

    While I have been feeling Lost and lonely I’m not sure if it’s the fall. My wife passed 2 1/2 years ago and it would’ve been our anniversary this month. The season I have the most trouble with his spring. my wife loved the spring it is when her birthday was. To me it is when I lost my wife three days before her birthday. It’s more about all the unfinished stuff we never got to do. I miss her so much!

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  6. Helen Wynn  September 16, 2022 at 6:54 pm Reply

    Very relevant post. I was just talking to my brother this morning about the advent of fall and the eventual coming of the Thanksgiving to Christmas holidays. Even though years have passed since the death of my husband, it was just 5 days before Christmas and 3 days before our anniversary. My Mother’s death was a month before Christmas, years ago. I just wish I could from September to January. Even now, still a tough time even living here in Hawaii where the weather is lovely and no snow in the forecast!

  7. Richard  September 16, 2022 at 5:15 pm Reply

    I lost my wife of 57 years to ALS on October 28, 2020. I don’t have a grief season as I mourn her loss EVERY day, Each day when I awake I lose her again as I become aware of my circumstances. Losing your soulmate is a wound that never heals.

    Richard

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  8. Cindy  September 16, 2022 at 3:53 pm Reply

    Yes!!! Fall is definitely my grief season. First because my son passed in September. Then because my sons favorite day of the year was Halloween. We both loved it. Our house was THE house on Halloween night. We stared going to the Halloween stores in early Sept.
    We went to Disney Halloween 12 times. We (he) lived Halloween. Hocus Pocus was his favorite movie of all time. Needless to say, the sight of a pumpkin, ghost, skeleton… anything remotely related to Halloween now stops me in my tracks and takes my breath away. The thought if doing Halloween without him shatters my heart all over again. This is our 2nd one without him but I was in shock last year. I dont remember much. This year it is all too real and oh so painful. I am devastated and afraid I wont survive it.
    Fall is start of the holiday season. The commercials are enough to make me nauseous. Its just 4 months of pure HELL when you’ve lost the center of your world.
    I wish I could rent a cave on an island somewhere and sleep thru all of it.
    I love and miss you so very much Blake Anthony 9/7/21💔💔💔💔

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  9. Harrietta  September 16, 2022 at 3:41 pm Reply

    I feel new to this grief club. On September 22it will be 9 months since my husband died. Every 22nd brings it on. You see we were married on August 22,1970. So every month there’s another 22nd. Never ending and I know others feel the same. Either way that’s the way it is. Thank you for this. It doesn’t change anything but at least I know I’m not crazy. I think

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  10. Linda  September 16, 2022 at 2:58 pm Reply

    Yesterday, September 15, 2022, made it two years since my dad died. Fall is definitely my grief month. Absolutely.

  11. Eileen  September 16, 2022 at 2:49 pm Reply

    Mine is fall..I have always loved this time of year..until my husband passed away..from that horrible virus. He was healthy but covid 19 hit him hard and he had multiple organ failure. Oct 31 2020 was a blue because he was fading fast. Nov 1st he passed. Now I dread the fall holidays

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  12. Pauline  September 16, 2022 at 2:12 pm Reply

    My mum passed in November when I was 8 years old followed by death after death, all in winter. My dad wasn’t a big fan of Christmas and obviously struggled without my mum however I don’t dislike Christmas for that reason (I got gifts then money from about 12) no somewhere in my young mind I remember the dark Winter nights, all the jolly lights and busy place with shoppers and laughing, so much joy and laughing. I think my young brain must’ve thought how can everyone be so happy, don’t they know I’ve lost my mum.

    So connections to seasons are made in so many ways. The only death that wasn’t Winter months was my partners last May. I’d barely been out the house before that due to major surgery so the 1st day was 29th June to sit with closed coffin and it was 31°…..I live in Scotland and I’m ginger so that wasn’t funny in the slightest that he was so inconsiderate to die in such heat! His funeral was arranged by his sister without asking me but the killer was her thinking it was nice to have his funeral on 7th July…..my partners 39th birthday.

    This year however upon his anniversary on 31st May I spent 4 hours at the family grave alone weeding, cleaning up listing to music and that was my time.

    My brain knows when it’s November even when I had to stop work and lost track of days it just knows however I cannot allow summer to be dreaded too and it isn’t.

    So Winter especially Christmas and New Year has alwaus been sad as I miss the ones who aren’t there and even as a teenager or early 20s pals would be celebrating and I’m still trying to convince others I just don’t celebrate, I’m not inteti9nally miserable, I’m fine, it’s others forcing celebrations on me.

    Then I’m made to feel depressing when they should just respect my grief and very long ingrained associations. I face grief head on they don’t so that’s my season story sorry its so long. I wish you all love and comfort wherever you are in your own grief x

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  13. Sheila Walker  September 16, 2022 at 1:27 pm Reply

    My grief is loosing my 22yr old son to gun violence and then a car accident on top of that.It happened in 2017 a day before Thanksgiving. I have cried every day since.Although I have 6 remaining children alive my soul hurts and longs for my son we were very very close he was the protector of everyone, sometimes I feel like I might die from Broken Heart Syndrome my heart rhythm does not beat the same anymore.

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  14. Karen C  September 16, 2022 at 12:00 pm Reply

    I was blessed by your post! I have found myself somewhat down the last week or so without an explanation as to why. I am approaching the 2nd anniversary of my Mother’s death and after reading your post, I am quite certain that fall must be my grieving season as well. I pray I don’t sink too low because I have come so far.

    Blessings!

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