Spring can’t be forced

"Grief can’t be forced to happen before it is ready to dissipate in its own time."

They’re here again!  The needle-dripping Christmas tree was barely out the front door when our food stores were displaying Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Tulips wrapped in shiny yellow, purple and green cellophane covered pots.

They actually arrived, as commonly happens, on a day when snow was falling into a blustery wind.  Spring is being ‘forced’ into early submission in hot-houses where the plants are encouraged to grow and blossom under conditions that trick them into recognizing  all the elements in their environment are ready and the season has advanced for them.  The plants are not natural.

Personally I like to watch the throes of winter fade away naturally with droplets sliding down the icicles indicating a thaw, and the muddy snow edges gradually melting back into the edges of the yard.  The end of winter and beginning of spring is a messy seasonal transition, but it always brings some promise that warmer times are coming.  There is more light during the days.  Small sprouts naturally emerge from the ground.  There is a freshness to the smell of the air and it is possible to take a deep breath without the cold searing lungs.  It feels like there is hope for newness and change.  It is gradual, but it is coming.

Grief is like this too.  Grief can’t be forced to happen before it is ready to dissipate in its own time.

Oh, there are many times we wish there was a way to speed up the process, to circumvent some of the pain, the memories or the sleepless nights.  If plants can be given chemicals and artificial light to outwit the growing time, is there nothing that can be given to a human being who desperately wants to move forward beyond the struggling feelings?  Not really.

Although external environments can be masterfully  manipulated, internal and emotional environments can’t be.  Grief, after any kind of loss (of a loved one, a job, a dream) needs time to work itself out.  Like each different spring plant, it needs its own individual and unique amount of time.

What can help grief move forward is to have elements in place that support the process.  Remembering is important, so talking about the relationship or the job or what was accomplished are reminders of what was cherished or valued.

Those conversations can happen in a grief support group, among friends or even as we talk to ourselves while driving or cleaning the house. Journaling and writing is another way to process the internal environment.

Rituals and observances of anniversary dates help mark the passage of time forward. When ready, choosing to engage in a new activity is like adding fertilizer or energy back into life.

Grief takes time.  Sometimes more time that we want to give it.  It can’t be forced.

Gail Potter is a nurse educator at Selkirk College who chairs the hospice board.

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