Grief and the Fall Season
There is so much to grieve.
There is senseless war. There is the slow, and sometimes not so slow, loss of our planet’s capacity to support life based on climate change and environmental catastrophe. And, we all have our personal losses; be it the loss of a person, relationship, place, pet, dream, or something else.
Loss, and the process of grieving, can happen at any time and during any season. But there is a special connection between the fall season and grief, at least according to 5 element theory.
5 element theory teaches that the seasons have natural qualities that relate to emotional states, fundamental elements, and body organs. I find this to be a helpful way of looking at things when I am moving through strong emotions.
The season of fall is associated with grief, the element of metal, and the body organs of the large intestine and lungs. Metal is an element that cuts away that which is no longer necessary. Like the leaves falling, the symbology is that of letting go. Sometimes that is easier said than done though, right?
What if you don’t want to let go? There is a distinction I want to make between holding on, and letting oneself feel. A teacher of mine once posed a question to the class, “what do you do with feelings?” Students offered different ideas, including “express them.” There is no wrong answer, but my teacher’s answer, which left an impression on me was, “what there is to do with feelings, is to feel them.” And if we don’t let ourselves feel our grief, and move through it, it is likely to cause an imbalance.
Another distinction I want to make is that moving through grief, and letting go, does not equate forgetting. I know that is where I sometimes get hung up. I don’t want to forget, and feeling the pain reminds me. The truth is, that the pain of loss does not go away. But it does ease, and when it eases, that does not mean I have forgotten.
And there is a beauty to be found in grief. This is evident from the beauty of the autumn season as well, this season with “awe” in its very name. I want to share the following part of a blog post by acupuncturist, Gillian Rose, which offers a perspective on the gift of grief.
“Grieving is necessary to move forward. As Alice Walker reminds us, the way forward is with a broken heart. The truth is that we lose everything anyway, including ourselves. Fear of loss cannot protect us, and when it stops us from loving, committing and being willing to feel deeply, it harms us greatly. Grief is something to move through. It is something to take with us. It is something to make us different, to differentiate our present from our past, to carve from us the very essence of life. The Japanese art of kintsugi, repairing broken pottery with gold and other precious metals, is my favorite metaphor for moving forward with a broken heart. It is the art of embracing damage. The art of believing something is more beautiful, more precious because it has been broken.”
There is no way to avoid loss, pain, or grief in this life. It is baked in. I invite you to join me this season in feeling it, letting it move through you, and then appreciating the gift it has to offer.
 Gillian Rose, “Grief Brings Us Home: Contemplations on the Metal Element,” Twelve Rivers Medicine, October 31, 2017, https://www.twelveriversmedicine.com/blog/2017/grief-brings-us-home-contemplations-on-the-metal-element