November is a tricky time for me. The nights are drawing in, the days are shorter, and less daylight means that, like many people, I feel a little more tired, a bit less energised. I often think that we should have a period of hibernation!
But it's also a difficult time for me and my family, as it would have been my Grandad's birthday today. The anniversaries of three of my grandparents' passing take place between now and Christmas. November is often known as the month of the bereaved; we have All Hallows' Eve at the end of October, All Souls' Day at the start of November. It's also the season where the leaves start to fall and many plants are no longer colourful and vibrant.
But, there is still beauty to be found. The colour of the leaves is beautiful right now. A carpet of orange and red covers my garden. There are sensory delights to be found everywhere: the crunch of the dry leaves underfoot; the smoothness of a polished conker; the smell and taste of hot chocolate; the soft blankets or scarves to wrap up in. And, we have Guy Fawkes' night, setting the sky ablaze with colour. And though it's not a UK celebration, there is Thanksgiving, a time to reflect and be grateful for the blessings in our life.
Similarly, in the sadness of mourning, there is also a certain nostalgic comfort to be found. The memory of my Nanna's beautiful yet mischievous smile; my Grandad's quiet strength and love; my Gran's knitting needles gently tapping together and the stories she and my Grandad told in the most wonderful double-act.
"Time is a healer". It may be a cliche (all the best phrases are), but it does offer a sense of comfort. In time, the leaves will grow, the flowers bloom, the joyful memories seem brighter than the sadness of loss.
There is a certain beauty in being able to let go, as the trees let go of their leaves. Being able to let go of the sadness of grief, means being able to focus on the happy memories. Letting go of negative thoughts allows us to move on to more helpful, productive ways of thinking. Letting go of bad habits allows us to be more healthy, stronger, happier.
It's important to take a moment, every now and then, to watch the leaves change. To reflect on what we are holding on to, and what we can let go.
I'll be having a slice of cake today for my Grandad's birthday, letting go of the sadness, and thinking of the joy I had in knowing him.