Whether you like it or not, winter has an impact on mood and coping. Some people love the dark and cold and snow, but not all of us can relate. Getting through the fall and winter months is tough, even without grief. Layer grief on top of that and things get complicated.
The problem with winter is that can suck all motivation and energy from everything around us. That's why planning is crucial and it needs to start when the sun is still shining and you are emotionally ready for when the darkness and cold hit.
Below is a few ideas to help cope with the winter blues and grief. The list may seem extensive, but everyone is different and their needs are different. What works for one person doesn’t work at all for another person.
Make a list of what you enjoy doing during the winter and post it somewhere that is easy to find when the days get short and the nights are long.
What indoor projects would you like to do this winter? What inspires and motivates you?
Create a memory book that honors your loved one.
Did you want to start a memorial or legacy project for your loved one such as a scholarship fund or memorial? Winter is a great time to start prepping.
Make a list of people you have lost touch over the years and then reach out to them by phone, email or social media.
Start a plan on how and what to sort through your loved one’s belongings that you have been putting it off.
Organize and scan old photographs
Too much TV can become a fall/winter hibernation problem. Give yourself some limits
Make a list of shows and movies you really want to watch, so when you are watching TV it is things you really enjoy/value and not just mindless channel surfing.
Stock up on books, crafts, puzzles, and games that you enjoy.
Try a light box designed for seasonal affective disorder for a little pick-me-up
Sign up for a class. What have you always wanted to learn and never made the time do?
Schedule regular get-togethers with friends and family for coffee or dinner.
Give volunteering a try
Plan for indoor exercise options that you enjoy
Try not to cancel plans. Sometimes you have to, for self-care, but be careful when it becomes a pattern.
Plan a mid-winter vacation to give yourself something to look forward to.
Join a book club
Join an in-person or online support group.
Start a blog (or keep blogging!).
Start journaling (or keep journaling!).
Create a healthy meal plan and learn new healthy recipes
Learn to bake.
If this is your first winter filling winter “roles” your loved one used to fill, get prepared before the need arises. (ie. book a snow removal service)
Learn how to use the snow blower
Find the snow blower and the shovels and the sidewalk sand and the roof shovel and the.....
Do you know how to light/start your furnace? Who can you ask to show you how?
Do you know who to phone when the plumbing freezes up and then unthaws all over the basement floor?
Where are the winter clothes? Get them out and sort through what stays and what can go
Do you know how to put on snow tires or tire chains on your car?
Do you have a trustworthy mechanic that can do your snow tire changes and oil change at the beginning/end of the winter season?
Plan for who will fill holiday roles, like shopping, decorating, and meal preparation.
If you drink, set reasonable limits and stick to them.
Get outside when it's sunny, even if it cold and for a few minutes of Vitamin D
Keep a daily gratitude journal. What is one thing you are grateful for every day?
Open your blinds and curtains to let in as much natural light as possible.
Trim back tree branches that are blocking light from windows.
Use a light alarm to wake up in the morning.
Go to a museum, a play, a concert. a local lecture, or a movie.
Join a rec indoor winter sports team, like basketball, indoor soccer, or indoor lacrosse.
Go ice skating, skiing, snow tubing, or snowboarding.
Go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowmobiling.
If you are struggling with motivation, ask a friend to join you in one of the above activities for the company and to make you less likely to back out.
Listen to music and dance around while doing the housework. Who cares if your vacuum cleaner is your dance partner
Go to bed and get up at the same time as often as possible.
Make evening plans right after work, so you are less likely to lose motivation from the winter darkness and then cancel.
What external factors impact your mood? News? Social media? YouTube? What makes you feel connected and positive? What you feel frustrated, negative or annoyed?
Learn a new language
Learn to play a musical instrument.
Learn how to meditate
Talk to a therapist if you are struggling to get through the winter months. There are many in-person and online options out there to try
Remember to cut yourself some slack. There will be days you don’t manage a single thing on this list, and that’s okay. Tomorrow is another chance to try again