April is a time when we look for the signs of spring. We know that the dead overgrowth of winter will yield to new life. Our lives can mimic nature. We go through cycles of death and rebirth at various points in our lives. On a small scale, we say good-bye to fellow students when we graduate and go on to the next level of education. In a much more painful cycle, we lose relationships and have to face days on our own.
There is a tendency among us all to resist change. We want to hold on to the familiar. We change when the pain of staying stuck outweighs the fear of doing something different.
Sometimes change is thrust upon us. We have a choice to look ahead to the next chapter or focus on how things used to be. Bitterness can set in when we cannot release what no longer serves us. When we are in the midst of the pain, it is hard to see beyond it. There are dozens of platitudes to tell us that “everything happens for a reason” or “it is always darkest before the dawn.” Those sayings are meant to encourage, but they can feel like a discounting of our struggle.
So then, what do we do to relieve our suffering? First, we can acknowledge that we are hurting. We don’t have to feel guilty for feeling what we feel or tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling it. We can notice it, and open our awareness that there may be other prospects on the horizon. In the meantime, we can be kind to ourselves through taking care of our bodies with reasonable sleep, exercise and nutrition, giving ourselves the encouraging messages that we need to hear, and setting boundaries for how much we can take on in this vulnerable period. We can give ourselves permission to heal.
Releasing the things that do not serve us creates an openness that can be filled by growth and an excitement for life. A forest fire decimates the older trees and creates a landscape that appears to be dead. However, the loss of those old trees and the nutrients that are released are part of a cycle that allows the forest to regenerate. We have a similar opportunity to be reborn into a “more alive” existence. This spring is a new season in which to evaluate what holds us down and what makes us soar.
Learn more about the author of this post: Pat Harthun, LCPC