Daryl R. Van Tongeren Ph.D.

Meaning Making

The Seasons of Life: or How to Survive Life's Winter Moments

How to thrive during all of life's seasons

Posted Feb 24, 2015

February can be tough. For those not fortunate enough to live in moderate climates, many of us know that February can be frigid, frosty, or downright freezing. With wind-chills in double digits below zero and the lake effect snow burying us under countless inches of snow, I stopped for a minute to remind myself: this too will pass.

Life seems to operate in seasons. Some parts of life are like spring: new beginnings, a fresh start, a brand new job, or a creative opportunity. Starting things always feels so exciting, so invigorating, and so hopeful. The possibilities are endless. Summer is when the living seems easier. Just like in life, sometimes things just click. Relationships are thriving, work seems effortless, and the pleasant days are long. Autumn brings a cool, refreshing change, but always a twinge of nostalgia of days lost and the foreboding reminder of what lies away. Life sometimes changes, which makes us remember (and long for) the past; we leave friends for a new chapter, say goodbye to a loved one, or move for another opportunity. And then, as certain as ever, winter arrives. The cold, bitter harshness of a season that indiscriminately tests the mettle of us all. It begs the question: how strong are you?

When life's winter seasons fall upon you—through loss of a loved one, the end of a great chapter in your life, or the termination of someting you couldn't imagine ending—many times, we are overcome with grief. How did this happen? How long will this endure? Will I survive? Am I strong enough?

Winter has a way of testing the resolve of people, rewarding those with grit and determination with the hope of spring. When you find yourself in life's winter moments, here are three things you can do endure, or perhaps even enjoy, this season of life.

1. Be mindful. Mindfulness is when we remove our natural judgments from a situation, and instead, we simply experience them for what they are. It can be difficult to practice, but imagine not assigning an experience as good or bad. It just is. Once we de-couple the negative assessment of value from our "winter" moments, we begin to experience life more fully.

2. Trust your own resolve. You're a lot stronger than you think. We can forget what we've been through and instead focus on our own shortcomings. Remind yourself of how strong you are, and the parts of your journey that have included overcoming difficulties in the past. Sometimes, it can be helpful to remember that you have done this before, and you can do it again.

3. Just like winter, life's tough moments will pass. Tough moments, experiences, or losses do not have to define us. They can add to our story, and help build our character, but we are more than our circumstances. Remember to get good support, invite your friends into you life, and take care of yourself, and just like the winter chill, this moment will pass.

Perhaps with a slight change in thinking, we can all enjoy all of life's season...even the Februraries.

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