Grief Therapy in Petaluma

Grief Therapy in Petaluma, CA

Attending to Grief in the Fall and Winter

As the colors of autumn emerge and we enter into the dark time of year, I am reminded of how many find themselves touched by some sense of grief. It may be grief over the loss of a loved one, recent or in the distant past. It may be grief about recent world events – war, violence, or famine. Perhaps it is a sense of grief over some unfulfilled desire or a longed for event that never came to pass. No matter the cause, it seems that grief finds its way to the surface at this time of year, calling for our close, heart-felt attention. And, given the psyche’s tendency to work in opposites, it is no surprise that this happens around Thanksgiving, a holiday devoted to appreciating the good and the beautiful in this world.

Grief calls us inward, much like the life force of the trees is called inward after leaves are shed, to attend to those places inside of us that hold tenderness about some loss. The autumn and winter seasons provide us with the opportunity to do this—perhaps even forcing us, much like the bear takes to her den for the winter. But how do we approach our grief so that we may be nourished by it? Most of us tend to want to avoid our grief and, in fact, our culture seems to support this avoidance with its myriad of distractions. But is it possible that attending to our grief, regardless of its origins, transforms us, opens our hearts, makes us more compassionate? I believe so, having found this to be the case over and over with clients in my psychotherapy practice.

So how do we bring intention and attention to our grief? The psyche responds to ritual and across the world, ritual is used to create container for the work of grief. Here are some small ways that you might find helpful to attend to your grief:

  • Light a candle and spend some time feeling into your grief, reflecting on it. Try not to fix it, but instead welcome it like an old friend here for a visit.
  • Write about your grief. A journal provides a container that can hold deep feelings and the act of writing helps the psyche and soma to integrate them.
  • Make art to honor your grief. Sometimes grief speaks in images that you may want to capture on the page, versus trying to write it out.
  • Create a small grief alter. Pictures of deceased loved ones or extinct species, poems, art, leaves, or anything else can be placed on an altar in a ritual act of acknowledgement and attention. Make time to sit at the altar, lite a candle there, say a prayer or sing a song.
  • Create a circle of trusted others to attend to grief. Grief is communal, not an individual process. Make time with friend and family to reflect on grief and how it touches your lives.
  • Take an intentional walk in nature. The cycles of loss and beauty, death and life, fear and gratitude are everywhere in nature and spending time there often touches our own grief, while reminding us of the beauty in the world.

As you consider some of these ritual ways of attending to grief, remember that grief is textured, often layered with a mix of emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, regret, or shame.

Sil Machado, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in Santa Rosa, CA. He works extensively with grieving individuals. Dr. Machado takes an integrative approach in which he blends emotion-focused psychotherapies with evidence-based, cutting edge practices, such as EMDR and neurofeedback, in a manner suited to the unique needs of each client.