Coping with Loss in Winter

Coping with Loss in Winter by Christy Hansen LMSW, Grief Support Specialist

Winter can be one of the most difficult times of the year when coping with a loss. Shorter days, cold and lack of sun can leave you feeling depleted, isolated and depressed.

It’s harder to get out and harder to exercise. It can be more difficult to spend time with friends and family. Sometimes holidays can trigger a difficult day, too.

It takes more effort to care for yourself in the winter, but making a plan can help ensure that you ‘survive.” Here are a few ideas:

  1. Get outside.
    It may be hard, but getting sunlight and exercise can be very therapeutic. Bundle up and try to get some fresh air every day. The Danish have a saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Plan ahead to keep warm and dry, and push yourself to get out for a little bit every day. Exposure to sunlight boosts the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Research shows that spending time outside can ward off depression and anxiety during the winter.
  2. Spend time with family and friends.
    It can help beat the feelings of isolation and loneliness that may come during the cold months. Make plans and keep them. It’s easier to cancel plans when it’s cold or dark, but this is a good time to push yourself. Become aware what part of the week is most difficult for you. For many people Sunday evenings are particularly difficult. Consider scheduling time with friends when you know you’ll need something to look forward to.
  3. Keep active.
    Exercise can be particularly difficult during winter months, and the benefits are even more needed. This may be a great time to join a gym, or find a class that you can regularly attend. Bonus if you can do it with a friend or family member, and have someone keep you accountable for showing up and being healthy.
  4. Take up a new hobby. Consider something that you have always wanted to do, but perhaps did not have time in your life before. If you were a caregiver, you may have had to put old hobbies on the back burner, or never had the chance to start. Sign up for a class, buy the needed supplies and find the time to make it happen. Giving your brain a new way to engage can be a helpful distraction from your grief.
  5. Cozy up your space.
    Since winter inevitably involves more time indoors, do what it takes to make it feel like a cozy, comfortable space. Blankets, candles, warm socks and house plants can all help with this. Choosing a favorite blanket or sweatshirt of your loved one can offer comfort and a sense of their presence.
  6. Get continued support. Join a support group or make an appointment with a grief support specialist. It can help remind you that you are not in this alone.