How ‘Wintering’ Can Help You Reflect and Explore

DECEMBER 27, 2020 07:00 AM

I love winter! When I proclaim that to others they often respond, “really? I despise winter!” They point out how cold and dark and dreary it is in winter. My love for winter goes back to my childhood. When snow would appear, I’d bundle up — snowsuit, boots, mittens and warm hat and off I would go to frolic in the glorious white powder. Eventually, my clothing wet and my cheeks rosy red, I’d return home needing a warmup. Hat and gloves on the radiator, snowsuit sometimes dripping on the kitchen floor, once warmed up I’d want to return to that winter wonderland.

Even now as an adult – a senior citizen – I still love the feel of the frigid air on my cheeks. I invite snowflakes to dance on my tongue as it sticks out into the cold. And when it snows, like it just did, you’ll find a fresh snow angel in my yard. I love winter!

Winter also holds grief and sadness for me. Dec. 2 is the anniversary of my mom’s death by suicide and Feb. 20 marks the anniversary of my dad’s death after a battle with lung cancer. By the age of 25 both my parents were gone and I felt very lost and alone. Back in the 1970s grief was just beginning to be explored. Most of my friends had no idea how to help me.

Today, more than 40 years later, I have good, solid support systems. Alan Wolfelt, a “grief guru” I admire, took the noun companion and made it a verb: “companioning” – meaning to walk beside and with grievers. I am now companioned by many and seek to companion others on their grief journeys.

Even bracketed by my major losses, winter remains a favorite time for me. I recently purchased a new book: “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.” The author, Katherine May, took the noun winter and put it into action. “Wintering,” she says, “is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.”

She affirms that winter “is a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.” She cites slowing down and resting, getting more sleep, and allowing your spare time to increase. Winter can provide opportunities for exploring new things as well as enjoying the simple pleasures of life like baking, reading and doing puzzles.

May also suggests that wintering can include acknowledging painful experiences and feelings. It can be lonely and overwhelming. Yet, it offers time to expose our vulnerabilities and perhaps even experience a transformation that might even enhance our experience of the season of spring that follows.

We can learn some lessons from Mother Nature as well. Winter is part of the natural cycle of life, death and new life in the natural world. Plants don’t fight winter. Animals don’t pretend it’s not happening. They prepare. They adapt. They hibernate. They trust that spring will come and transformations will happen.

Last Monday was the winter solstice – the longest night of the year. There are many rituals and celebrations around this annual event. Several writers described the solstice as “the rebirth of the sun.” I love that concept. Imagine if winter could be a time of rebirth for you?

I’d like to invite you to consider making the choice to “do winter” this year, maybe not fully embrace it, but open up to some of the gifts this season offers. Winter can be a time to escape from the world – and right now many may be seeking escape. It’s a time to snuggle under a warm blanket with a good book or a favorite movie. It’s a time of warmth inside and hot cocoa with marshmallows. It’s even a time to feel our grief, moving into and through our sadness.

Perhaps I haven’t convinced anyone to love winter as I do, but maybe you can find a golden nugget, a shining light in the midst of the darkness, an opportunity for rest and renewal. Whatever you do (or don’t do) know that spring will come. As for me, I’m hoping for lots more snow!

Evelyn Wald is the program director for Tides and a facilitator for support groups. This column is coordinated by, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.

This was first printed in the Centre Daily Times on December 27, 2020.