A Dark Night of Healing and Hope

We are nearing winter solstice (December 21st) a day that will be the shortest in this cycle around the sun, a day with more darkness than light.

When I think of this celestial event it reminds me of the expression, “a dark night of the soul” and how our human experience can parallel the cycles of nature. When darkness comes into our lives it can be hard to remember the heat of summer or the lilt of spring. It can seem as if destruction and decay are the only things we will ever experience and that rebirth and growth, light and heat are impossible. And indeed, in the midst of winter’s cold, grey days, they are. But below the surface of things nature is preparing for the new and so can we.

In working with clients and in my own life, I have noticed that a time of turning inward to grieve, to reflect, to dream, to understand, to make peace, often comes before a burst of growth and greater well-being. We need the dark, quiet time for this underground work.

It can be challenging during the holiday season to pull back from the frenzy of doing. But because this time of year often brings up memories and loss, it can also be the perfect time to accept our own darkness and truly be with it in a way that heals and prepares us for spring.

To Honor the Night:

1. Let it be dark. Turn off lights and electronics for an hour in the evening. Savor the quiet. What arises inside you when things are damped down?

2. Light candles.

3. Write a letter to someone you have lost and express your appreciation for the role they have played in your life. Mail it by placing it in a book or special box.

4. Listen to contemplative music.

5. Cry.

6. Bundle up and go for a walk. Notice how trees and plants look this time of year. Remind yourself that though they look dead, they hold all the richness and splendor of blossoms and leaves and fruit within them.

7. Forgive someone. Forgive yourself.

8. Look at the stars.

9. Watch the sun rise.

10. Read a poem like this one by Mary Oliver:

 

Lines Written in the Days
of Growing Darkness

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

 

 

Remember, on December 22nd the days will begin getting longer.  Light will return. You can begin adding light to your life too. If you need help letting the light in, get in touch with a counselor, a supportive friend or family member or call our community helpline 541-779-HELP. 

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