It’s Autumn and in the Five Elements, steeped in the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the season of letting go, of grief.
We see it in nature, as the trees let go of their leaves. From green, to browns and reds, to nothing, just the bare bones of the tree. The core, the trunk and the branches.
In letting go we grieve, if we allow ourselves. This is sometimes why letting go is so hard. I hear the words “let go” and it isn’t simple as we believe.
Letting go is a process, just as it is in nature. It’s something you need to experience, to go through.
But grief is hard. Because it does get to the core. To the heart of us. Our heartbreak, our pain.
Over the past few months I’ve been reflecting on all the losses we experience in a lifetime. Bought on by the exponential loss that we’re all experiencing this year.
All the loses that we don’t recognise, or that we don’t believe we are entitled to grieve. That somehow because it’s the normal way of life, we shouldn’t feel it.
But we do feel it, it’s in our body and our heart, even when we don’t allow ourselves to acknowledge it.
We talk about grief when it comes to losing a loved one, or a beloved pet. When there’s death. But there is grief and loss when anything ends, and it has so many dimensions.
Our losses start young, when we leave the nursery we know and love to go to a brand new school at such a young age, then we leave primary school for secondary school. Friendships come and go, as do relationships. Parents divorce, we move home, cities, even countries. We marry, we divorce. We change jobs. We experience changes in our bodies and our health; from puberty and menopause, to illness, and in those we love. Our parents age. And then if we’re a mother, we see all of this in our children, another form of loss.
It’s interesting as writing this I can see so clearly that will all these endings, these losses, there are beginnings.
There’s also grief in the things that we don’t have or experience, that we thought would be a part of this lifetime, our lifetime. It may be the loss at not becoming a mother, even in the process of becoming a mother, or of the marriage that we thought we’d have. The child that’s born with a condition or disability.
Loss extends far and wide.
To our planet, systems breaking down, addiction, war, natural disasters, racism.
Loss is part of life. I often quote the Buddhist philosophy, in a lifetime there are 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys.
With loss, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t joy and happiness too. In fact I believe wholeheartedly that when we allow ourselves to acknowledge and grieve our losses, it opens us to more joy, more happiness, more possibilities. Because we’re no longer trying to suppress the pain and we feel.
Acknowledging the loss and experiencing the grief is necessary.
This brings me to the loss of this year, the pandemic. A fundamental change as a collective, on a scale that we’ve never experienced before. A loss in our way of being in this world. Dr Pauline Boss calls this ‘ambiguous loss’ – a loss that’s unclear or lacks resolution. And this is where we find ourselves, in this strange place that’s in-between the old and what might be the new. But very much in the unknown.
I say this because I want you to know that you’re not alone. If Autumn is bringing with it all the feelings, this is a natural part of the cycle. I’m sitting with it myself as I write to you. And it’s necessary.
It’s necessary if we want to open ourselves up to everything that life has to offer; the joy and the sadness. They can co-exist, side by side.
You see with life, there is death. With endings there are beginnings. And so it goes on. We are in the many cycles of life.
I wanted to offer some support as I write about grief and Autumn. Here are some things to support you in this Autumn transition:
Acknowledge your loss or how you feel in this moment
This is fundamental. Allow yourself to acknowledge the loss that you’re experiencing or even just how you’re feeling in this moment. Not to make it wrong, or bad, or that little voice that says “I should be OK.” Allow it all in, whatever you’re feeling or experiencing.
Reach out to those you love
I know that many of us have been bought up with the belief that we either need to do this on our own or that we need to have everything together. We don’t. Dr Julia Samuel says that surrounding ourselves with those we love is fundamental in the process of grief, and whilst that might look different right now, it’s still very much what we all need as human beings, we need connection.
Get out in nature
My relationship with nature has changed and deepened over the past year. If you can, get out in nature regularly. Get curious. I sometimes like to walk through the same wood day after day, and notice what is different. Nature changes every moment of every day, as do we.
Our breath is our life force. It has the power to change how you feel in an instant and it does this physiologically. When we breathe deeply and consciously it can change our central nervous system from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest). Meaning it calms our whole system down. If you can find a moment each day to breathe, to sit in silence and just breathe.
Nourish your heart
With grief your broken heart needs nourishing and caring for. There are many ways you can do this. A bath with rose petals and rose oil. Massaging rose oil into your body after your shower or bath. Drinking something sweet like amasake and milk. Or rose tea. Rose is very good for the heart as you can see, you can even buy yourself a bunch of roses. Do something that you love or be with someone you love. A hug where you can.
We can be so hard on ourselves. We tell ourselves so many things that are mostly untrue. And so most importantly be tender with yourself. Bring in the compassion for yourself that you would give a dear friend.
I’m sending you all love.
Nicky Duffell is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and Maturation Coach, bringing together nutrition expertise, functional medicine and powerful coaching techniques to support the whole you: Mind, Body and Soul.
Nicky qualified from The Institute for Optimum Nutrition in 2009 and is registered with The British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT), and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). She is also a member of The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), and has a specialist interest in grief work.