Grief Bursts

In a video on coping with grief during the holidays, I heard the expression “grief bursts,” as used by counselors and others working with the bereaved.  This immediately resonated. You could say I’ve been having a plethora of bursts lately. Apparently, they are also referred to as subsequent temporary upsurges of grief, or STUGs, by grief therapists. These terms are helpful to me – they provide a way to name my experience, and describe it to others.  Both refer to a flare or increase in sadness brought on by a trigger of some kind (sights, sounds, seasonal reminders), or a memory, and they are usually not predictable.

Now there’s quite a bit of reading out there on the predictable upsurge of sadness during the months of November and December, and some of it has solid guidance, even if it is mostly of the Coping in Six Easy Steps variety. And even though I could amply anticipate my increased sadness this past month (and expect it also in December), I still find its intensity and duration catch me off guard. My grief is stronger than I anticipated – having been through my “firsts” already – and acknowledging and embracing that fact helps me move through the upsurges. So does spending time with the “grief positive” people in my life.

Maybe most important is recognizing the personal significance of the season. November held one of my last visits with Kissie, and December was the last full month of her life. My consciousness of this feels essential to weathering these especially intense bursts, and it helps me have compassion for, and patience with, my vulnerability.

Autumn, Particularly

It’s hard to believe I could miss her more than I do, every. single. day. Then fall comes. It’s autumn, particularly, that embodies her brilliance, her joie de vivre, her way of bursting into a room and charging the energy with color and light.

Kissie embraced and celebrated each season’s idiosyncrasies, but none captivated her, or crystallized her sense of wonder and awe, like fall. She reveled in the midwestern pleasures: the crisp air, a crackling fire, apples and pumpkins, Halloween, and of course, the trees. She’d unabashedly jump into a pile of maple leaves and toss them like confetti.

These are the liminal days when I long for her with a heightened intensity – memories swirl and I can almost hear her voice in the quiet morning air. Maybe that’s why she loved this time so much – these transitory, fluid days do feel like a threshold, a beginning as much as an end. There is a penetrating sense of her presence, and countless reminders of the life and people she loved so much. I miss her more.