Finding the gift in Autumn GriefNov 02, 2023
I'm writing this on the last day of October, curled up with Nutmeg and Rosie, the best-worst dogs in the world. I feel a sense of heaviness as I give up my fight to stay in summer mode. It never ceases to amaze me what a contradictory being I am, despite my insistence that I love the seasons and couldn't live in a country without them. When autumn starts, the feeling of grief is alarming.
“But I haven't finished with summer yet! I still need the warmth and long days. I have things to do, projects that are incomplete.”
I was interviewed about this by book coach Holly Ostara on her new podcast, the Dream Season. Just as I was processing this year's unexpected, but usual, Autumn Grief. Turns out it's not just me. Holly felt the same way, and then clients started to mention it too.
So what to do? I always ask this and always apply the same steps, no matter what the issue. It always works, and yet I always resist my own process. There's that contradictory nature again.
Step One: Start where you are.
Sounds obvious, but most of the time I find myself resisting the now, reliving the past or wishing the trickier transitions away.
Step Two: Really notice what's going on for me. In other words, notice the grief, feel the sorrow around summer passing and autumn starting to arrive. Then drop the judgement. Drop the judgement around how I shouldn't be feeling this way, how I ought not to be so contradictory, how, if I say I love the seasons, I should embrace them as they change.
Step Three: Decide what I want instead. I’ve found there's always a gift for me in the trickier moments. Usually I start by reversing the feelings I'm struggling with and seeing if that feels like the freedom I seek.
If I don't want to grieve the passing of summer so deeply, then I need to accept it as a really good thing. So what's good about it? Well, firstly, if I spent my whole life in summer mode, it would be… actually… right! Now I'm seeing the sunshine, feeling the heat and the lovely scene in my head: I've got a beach. I've even got a speedboat, which is interesting because I've never really thought of myself as somebody needing to go on a speedboat in the summer, but I guess it would be fun. So that's not going to work. I'm a summer person: full stop - self acceptance. But I absolutely love the life I've created for myself in sometimes damp and soggy Wiltshire. Plus, my partner is an autumn-winter person, so if I want to hang out with him I need to embrace the season change instead of wasting energy seeped in grief fighting it.
I always love noticing the first leaf changing. The way the sunrise and sunset is brought to me on a convenient plate to be admired. I like lighting the wood burner and drinking hot chocolate. I like kicking leaves on autumn walks. I even like, eventually, the letting go of the need to spend so much time in my garden. It goes to sleep conveniently as the day's shorten and I run out of time to do those outdoor jobs. Of course it does, because autumn is for me, not against me.
In the Gentle Rebel Community this month, our theme has been finding more space for you, using the signs of autumn as a helpful reminder to let go of the things that are no longer serving you. What if every leaf falls for you - as a reminder to let go of the thoughts, beliefs and habits that worked in the past but are cluttering up your present?
So, that's two ways of adjusting to the season change: appreciating the beauty and good things of autumn, the colour of the trees, the chance to wear my favourite autumn jumper, the drinking of Willie's hot chocolate. Viewing autumn as for me, not against me - as an opportunity to shed the old before resting for the winter and then getting all excited about life again in the spring, because that's my time. That's just who I am.
But here's a new thing I've learnt this year thanks to Holly Ostara and her Dream Season podcast. There's a season for writing, and autumn is it for me. I love to write, but writing consistently doesn't work for me. Holly helped me understand why, and now my writing has come back to me in overflow and the dark evenings are creating the space to let the words flow onto the page. Realising this was revolutionary for me. It gave me a degree of freedom and self-acceptance I hadn't felt before, a freedom to be myself around, what, for me, is the trickiest of season changes. I have found my gift in the sorrow of summer passing, and it feels really good.
You can listen to me reading this blog on my podcast here.
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