At our recent Sacred Sorrows' Afternoon of Remembrance and Reflection at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, California, guest writer and facilitator Susen Hickman presented a talk about "winter leading to spring". In her adaptation below, she shares about the metaphor of deciduous trees and our own winter journey through grief.
It's winter. And in many ways, we may be in our very own winter. We learned in elementary school there are, what we call, deciduous trees. They lose their leaves in the fall and during the winter months they look lifeless. They aren't. These trees shed leaves to conserve energy to survive the winter months. They basically hunker down for the cold. They hibernate. They do what they can to get through the tough times, and then they bloom again.
It's kind of like us.
We go through seasons of coldness, barrenness, and dread. The seasons come and go with the ups and downs of life. But, for us - it can be the winter of our own hearts because of the loss of our child or grandchild and we feel numb or we struggle to do anything. We can't see that spring is coming.
Going through a winter season doesn't mean we're defeated, or have failed. It simply means we're going through a winter season. God didn't abandon us. God isn't punishing us. There's nothing to be fixed. There's no hidden sin to repent of.
It's simply winter - and, loss is a part of life. I know that hearing that while in the midst of your own, personal winter, feels terrible and it may not seem helpful. But, I want you to know that you're not alone.
I've been there. I've gone through my own winter season of feeling sadness and feeling alone, and not seeing a light in the dark tunnel. Sometimes even in the midst of being surrounded by people. Hibernation can do that - make you feel alone. And when that keeps happening, it's easy to let a winter season send us into a very long blizzard.
These seasons of coldness, barrenness, and dread are temporary. Like many of God's woodland creatures who huddle, wait, and hibernate during the winter, you can also silently prepare for the coming of new hope and new growth. Like deciduous trees, delicate new buds and the greening of spring will happen in your heart. Spring is coming.
Special thanks to Fr. Stephan Bauer, O.S.C., Crosier Fathers & Brothers, whose presentation to the women of Sacred Sorrows in Phoenix in January 2022 inspired this topic.