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Winter Solstice and grief

The month of December on a calendar features many holidays and an endless parade of happy people enjoying the festivities. For those who are grieving however, they just want to focus on the inward pain.

The Winter Solstice (usually falling on Dec 21 or 22) is a powerfully symbolic time. The sun metaphorically dies on the longest, darkest night of the year, and is reborn the next day to begin its journey to the summer solstice.

The Winter Solstice, the dark season in the northern hemisphere with its promise of coming light, is a perfect time to honor those we miss. Alone or with others, we pause, remember, and give thanks for who and what we love.

Many world religions have holidays around this time celebrating the return of the light. This time is about hope and new beginnings, the rebirth that inevitably comes after death. The time before the Winter Solstice, however, is a time for grieving, acknowledging what’s been lost, and letting go.

The Winter Solstice can be a time to sit with that grief and begin to heal. Grief can come in all forms: mourning a loss or a friend or family member, mourning the end of relationships, the end of the year where nothing went the way you had hoped or planned.

“Grief can come in all forms: mourning a loss or a friend or family member, mourning the end of relationships, the end of the year where nothing went the way you had hoped or planned.  Rather than forcing yourself to be cheerful, acknowledge your grieving and use the Winter Solstice to help process your loss. Performing rituals for grief can help us process and move the pain towards a lighter feeling, even if only for a few moments.” suggests Lisa Wagoner in her article Grieving at Winter Solstice.

Julie Peters in her blog Meaningful Ritual for Winter Solstice quotes “In general, as a culture we don’t give ourselves a lot of space for grieving. We take time off, sometimes, if a family member dies, but we rarely acknowledge the smaller griefs, like a lost dream, a lost relationship, or even a change in phase, such as when our children go to school or when we move to a new city and miss our lives the way they were before. Grieving sometimes exists alongside joy and celebration as a natural adjustment to change.”

Grieving can be done alone, through meditation, journaling, or perhaps visiting a location representing the past such as a gravestone, the old city, or an old school. It can also be done collectively, and it is quite powerful to allow your grief to be shared and witnessed with others. A simple grief circle with a few friends can be a lovely way to honor what’s in the past. You can simply take turns sharing both what we are grieving from the past and what we are looking forward to in the future.”

A simple candle ritual can symbolize letting go of the last year and welcoming the new life of the sun as it begins to grow again toward the summer solstice. Light a candle and stare into its flames, thinking about the last year, what happened, what it meant to you, and what is no longer. The blow out the candle and take some time to mourn that time that has passed. Then re-light the candle and as you stare into it, consider your hopes and dreams for the coming year.

Elaine Mansfield in her blog Winter Solstice: Rituals of Grief, Hope, and Laughter suggests, “We all miss someone–a parent, a grandparent, a child, a spouse, a friend, a pet. When we make space for grief, we open our hearts to ourselves and each other. Isn’t that what we want at Solstice and any time of year?”


• grieving at winter solstice December 19, 2018, by  Lisa Wagoner

• Winter Solstice: Rituals of Grief, Hope, and Laughter On December 20, 2016  


• Meaningful Rituals for Winter Solstice by  Julie Peters

• winter solstice meditation by Julie peters

• Winter Solstice HISTORY.COM EDITORS UPDATED: DEC 21, 2020, ORIGINAL: SEP 21, 2017


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