Catherine Bruce, LCSW
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.”
As we continue to experience a time of great uncertainty, there are some things that remain constant. Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.” Indeed, we find ourselves in a season of loss and frantically gathering numbered forms to file. Meanwhile, another certainty seems around the bend- Springtime. As the days get longer and the sound of thunder becomes more common, we anticipate the change of seasons. Often the painful realities of the business of death, including taxes, and the change of seasons are left out of the conversation about grief. So, let’s talk about them.
Often the painful realities of the business of death, including taxes, and the change of seasons are left out of the conversation about grief.
Tax season should have its own chapter in books about grief. Filing taxes is dreaded in the best of times. While we are grieving, this task can feel completely overwhelming. The loss of a loved one inevitability changes our roles in life. Maybe your loved one was the person who always filed the taxes, maybe your loved one gave you no guidance about their finances, maybe you have been left with complicated medical bills, or maybe the tax situation is relatively simple but feels impossible to complete. Whatever your situation is, the exhaustion is normal because grief takes so much of our social, emotional, mental, and physical energy. When something else demands our energy, there is often none left to give.
As you feel the exhaustion of tax season in full force, take the time to examine ways you can ask for help. This may look like hiring a tax professional for the first time or asking a tech-savvy friend or family member to walk you through an online filing tool. If you are uncomfortable or unable to get help with your taxes, consider other areas of your life where you may be able to get help this season. Allow that neighbor to spread mulch or let friends bring you a meal. Accepting help allows you to preserve precious energy and gives your helper a sense of purpose and pride.
Unlike tax season, Springtime often brings a sense of hope and renewal, but grievers can feel left behind. While the rest of the world seems filled with anticipation for the warmer weather and longer days, people who are missing a loved one are faced with a new set of triggers. It is often assumed that winter holidays including Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, are the worst for grievers. However, grief stays with us through the change of seasons. In Springtime, we are faced with new holidays, wedding and baby season, and memories of warm weather activities with our loved one.
The grief triggers in each new season cannot be avoided. We are tasked with learning to cope with these triggers and continue living with the grief. Fortunately, Springtime also brings opportunities for new or different coping strategies. Gardening, golfing, outdoor exercise, nature walks, or taking a book outside suddenly become available as the weather warms, daylight stretches, and the world blooms around us.
Just as the seasons change, our grief does not remain stagnant. As the changes and challenges in grief continue throughout the year, it is my hope that you can quiet the voice saying that you might be “going backwards” in your grief, or that you should be in a better place by now. Grief happens in a chaotic mess of different emotions, not in neat stages. As you continue to endure the chaos, look for ways that you can ask for help, preserve your energy, and find peace or playfulness in the changing seasons.