Celebrating Fall Blessings

Oct 9, 2020

Debbie Vallandingham, LMSW-ACSW, Bereavement Manager

Fall is a wonderful season that encourages us to celebrate the bounty in life. It’s known for enjoying the abundance of the harvest as we dash off to the apple orchard for much needed cider and donuts. It’s a time to buy mums in brilliant shades of orange and rust and even deep purple. It may even involve a trip to a pumpkin patch to pick your own perfect soon to be jack-o’-lantern. Fall comes in with a rush of color and call to cozy clothing that can help us reflect on the abundant joys our loved one brought our lives.

Celebrating the Harvest of Life

There’s no question: fall is the time to celebrate the fruits of the harvest! In many fall images, you’ll find the cornucopia. In ancient times, the cornucopia symbolized abundance and was represented by an image of a horn of plenty with fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts emerging and bursting out.

In terms of grieving the loss of our loved ones, it’s also an opportunity to remind ourselves of the abundance of good things they brought into our lives. A few suggestions to celebrate their memories include:

• Reflect on harvest trips with your loved one, whether it was to a pumpkin patch, an apple orchard, a farmers’ market, or just to the grocery store to pick up those tasty honey-crisp apples. Think about the chill in the air. Remember the taste of the cider, donuts, caramel apples or coffee you shared while talking with your loved one.

• Enjoy a fall treat on behalf of your loved one. Think of what type of fall goodie would appeal to them and run and get one. It could be spiced donuts, apples, pumpkin pie, or even a pumpkin spice latte. As you enjoy your treat, remember your loved one during fall and the time you spent.

• Make a cornucopia of the blessings your loved one brought you. You can either draw the horn or find one from a magazine and place it on a piece of paper. Where you see fruit and vegetables falling out, add words that represent the gifts and abundance your loved one gave.

Enjoying the Splendor of the Falling Leaves

The changing leaves are a definite sign of fall’s presence. You can turn to the hearty sugar maple tree to see the change from yellow to orange to red. Just wait and the stately oak will turn from yellow to brown with its abundant acorns. Living in Michigan brings with it the blessings of a beautiful canvas of fall color. In fact, Michigan is known nationwide as having “America’s Most Scenic Autumn Drive” running the rim of Lake Michigan along gorgeous M-22.

But fall leaves and grief have many similarities. The reason that tree leaves change color and fall off is to prepare them for winter. They make a transition from a solid green to vivid colors before departing and leaving the tree alone and unprotected. But trees survive and emerge again in spring. Our memories of the beauty of their fall color helps us through the cold winter. Just like our bright and vivid memories of our loved one will help us through the challenging days and nights of grief. Here are a few suggestions to incorporate the splendor of fall colors into your grieving:

• Take a fall drive and enjoy the colors as the trees change. Since group gatherings may be difficult during COVID-19, the idea of hopping in the car and taking a drive can help fulfill the need to get out and see fall’s natural beauty. If you’re able to take a long trip, consider the drive around M22 or one of our beautiful local leaf scenic drives. If you’re not up for going so far, even a local drive around your community can reveal the birch trees and maples ablaze.

• Try fall photography. As almost every cell phone has a camera, almost everyone can take a turn as a photographer. As you drive, feel free to stop and capture the colors. You can even stay at home and take pictures of fallen leaves and enjoy the colors you’ve captured in the images.

• Collect leaves and press them into a book. Finally, you can grab the most beautiful, most glorious leaves you find and put them in a memory book. Use the pages to talk about what the colors mean to you and how they make you remember your loved one.

Moving Beyond Equal Day and Equal Night

The entry into fall is marked by the autumnal equinox. On this day (September 22, 2020), the sun is exactly above the earth’s equator. On this day, we experience equal day and equal night before we move towards a time of the year where the darkness grows longer and the brightness shortens. The nights feel longer and colder and the sun feels more distant.
This time of transition from summer into fall and ultimately the deepest and darkest day of the year, has an almost symbolic feel in the life of those grieving. It can be a challenge and even overwhelming as the holiday season is rapidly approaching. You can feel alone in the dark evenings. But don’t let the lack of light cause you distress. The cool darkness provides an opportunity to wrap yourself in the warm glow of your loved one:

• Celebrate the longer night by enjoying a fire. During the chill of the evening, you can enjoy that mug of warm cider by the light of a fire. You could have a small bonfire, light a porch fire ring, or even have a simple candle to reflect on the light your loved one brought you and the world.

• Enjoy the warmth of a sweater, sweatshirt, or fall layers as the days grow cooler. This is also a good opportunity to either wear a sweater or outfit that your loved one enjoyed, or even find one of their old sweatshirts and use it to fight back the chill.

Enjoy the Beauty of Fall

With autumn in the air, we’re in the midst of another change of season. Just remember, grief too has its seasons. Grieving in fall offers us the opportunity to reflect on the abundant blessings of our loved one, while we remember the vibrant colors of their life. Take time to enjoy the wonders of fall!

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