Grief and the winter blues

Categories: Community Engagement.

This Calgary winter has been particularly cold and we’ve a long way to go before spring turns the corner. Navigating  through the winter blues can be even more challenging for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. 

For the Miller family, life changed dramatically 18 months ago when Della, a vibrant, working mom, wife, daughter and friend, died following a sudden cardiovascular accident.  David, her husband, and their three children have received the support of family and friends and are adapting the best they can to life as a family of four. David’s employer allows him to work flexible hours so that he can take his children to piano, hockey, dance and other activities.  He is thankful for his manager’s and colleagues’ understanding and support and knows that not everyone is as lucky.  

Last year was the year of the firsts: the first birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, hockey tournament, recital, school baking sale, and so many more without Della. Recently, David and the children told their grief counsellor at Hospice Calgary that some people expected them to be over it and back to normal by now.  This mid-winter period is really hard on him and the children everyone nods when Simon, 12, says “There’s not much to look forward to!”  

If you are a family who is grieving or know a grieving child, teen or family, here are five tips to consider:


1. Stay Connected.


One’s connection with family and friends is the #1 predictor of happiness and well-being. It seems that people who feel connected to others feel less sad and lonely and experience less trouble with sleep and eating.


2. Rest up.


“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep” Homer, the Odyssey. Along with school, work, activities, family and friends, come demands, expectations, deadlines, and stress. Sleep deficit impacts school performance, self-confidence, mental and physical health.  Sleep restores the body and the mind and allows for the brain to function optimally.  If a busy mind prevents sleep: write a list, create a mind-map or find a way to externalize that to-do list or those troublesome thoughts so your head doesn’t hang on to them. Try listening to soothing music or a short meditation to calm the mind and body.


3. Schedule in FUN!


We lead busy lives and judging by the number of books for sale on happiness, we are all looking for ways to slow down and enjoy life more. There is no need for elaborate and expensive ventures: a toboggan, skates, or a movie and good company. Research suggests that experiencing positive emotions helps people cope with negative emotions, even when dealing with chronic stress (Folkman, 1997; Fredrickson, 2000). 


4. Good Grief.


Grief is a normal response to a loss.  Allow yourself to be with your emotions even if it’s painful.  Consider sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone as it can lead to a sense of safety and connectedness. Check with your employer for employee assistance programs (EAP). In Calgary, children and teens are referred to Hospice Calgary for grief support www.hospicecalgary.com. 


5. Find Support.


Meeting with other bereaved children, teens or parents can also alleviate the feelings of isolation and can bring a different perspective, new insights and camaraderie. 

Whatever tips you consider, remember not to put pressure to manage or control your grief or stress. If the seasonal blues and grief become unmanageable, please see your physician or call the Distress Centre (403.266.4357).

This article appears on Hospice Calgary’s website.