Summertime Sadness: Seasonal Grief and Patterns of Mourning

Summertime Sadness: Seasonal Grief and Patterns of Mourning

Summer is here and is rightfully heralded as a time of joy, freedom, and expression! While that’s wonderful, I often see the opposite for many folks struggling with losses, ailing animals, caregiver stress, sandwiched care, burnout, or flat affect.

The heat can be healing but it is also a furnace that can ignite dormant embers of struggle and bodily inflammation. Summer melancholia is a thing. As the BBQs flourish and the smiles surround you, if you’re one grin away from a breakdown, I want you to know that you are having a normal reaction to overwhelm. Our pandemic has shed a lot of light on the neatly constructed facade we carried across our tightly scheduled and manicured lifestyles. My personal and professional life reveal that this facade is cracking. While it is such a gift to our mental health to begin socializing with one another, it is also important to not rush back to our manic normal. Especially if the frenetic pacing is pulling you away from honoring your natural rhythms and your capacity to process the feelings you carry.

If your capacity to commute, work a 9-5, navigate 3 kids’ summer camp schedules and your grandmother’s passing is crushing you, it’s cool to pass on the four weekend events you have scheduled to attend. Life is a grind and when the grind gets too much, it’s ok to feel sadness.

I hear a lot more of: “I just can’t”, “It’s too much,” “I had to say no” and that is refreshing. Carpe Diem only applies if you have the energy to enjoy the things you are engaging with.

If you are struggling with mood, impending loss, or residual loss, allow yourself the space to connect with folks who let you show up as you are. No pretenses, no performance, no feigned positivity—just as you are. Structure your time with a walk, or something in nature to support the depth of your feelings. Nature and walking are both great ways to process the heaviness or even edginess associated with sadness. Remember that sadness and grief show up in different ways. Sometimes as restless and irritable, sometimes as quiet and forlorn, other times yet it is a watery mess… but always… it requires space to be processed.

Other things that can work are listening to music that moves you, moderate exercise, and daily rituals like gardening, prayer, meditation, or chores. Finding ways to express the feelings like writing, drawing, singing, chanting, playing an instrument, and storytelling with family can be useful. Lastly, find privacy and sacred space to speak to a lost loved one or parts of yourself that are hurting due to the stress you are carrying. This can be deeply cathartic and healing and can be done silently or out loud in private.

This month’s ask is to take a little time to support your own grief and to consider your loved ones as well. Notice if you need some structured time to process the feelings you are carrying. If the aforementioned suggestions don’t ease the burn, it is always ok to seek professional help. Speak to your doctor to see about a counseling referral, or search for a support group that aligns with your specific circumstances. Whatever method you choose, allowing space for your processing doesn’t mean you will get stuck in your feelings. Providing yourself weekly opportunities to honor yourself and your loved ones will just create some space so that the feelings don’t come out sideways. What we stuff down leaks out in maladaptive ways, and that isn’t pleasant for anyone. A little goes a long way when it comes to processing sadness and grief. Do your work gently. It’s always worth it.

With great love,