The Importance of Holding Space for Yourself to Feel the Fall
How are you dear heart?
Many different cultures and perspectives acknowledge autumn as a time of heavy emotions as it is the season of releasing to make way for the new. Imagine the trees as they lose their leaves, moving in appearance from readily apparent bounty to their barren and naked state, trunk and branches fully exposed. While we may imagine ourselves being divorced from nature, we are in fact deeply affected by these transitions, and so it is not uncommon to feel grief and sadness this time of year.
Fall is a particularly beautiful and tender time of transition.
We are moving from the fullness of summer - the outward energies of creation, activity, growth and adventure - into a more inward phase, toward the darkness and stillness of winter. It’s a time for harvesting, honoring all we’ve done, celebrating the bounty that’s been created, and releasing any visions that haven’t come to be.
Sometimes I find it helpful to think of this seasonal transition in a more intimate sense, like watching an oncoming sunset.
As the brightness of day begins to fade, there’s opportunity to acknowledge that there are only a few precious hours left in the cycle of this day, to bask in the beauty of a day fully lived, and to revel in the beauty of the oncoming night. We let go of activity, drawing our energy inward, and saying goodbye to any ambitions we held for that particular cycle that weren’t ultimately realized.
Just as we sometimes busy ourselves through the sunset - pushing through to get things done and stretching out the hours as far as we can - it can likewise be easy to get caught up in business-as-usual as a way to avoid the sadness and release that naturally accompanies the transition into fall.
It’s not at all uncommon to avoid “negative” emotions, and during this time of year especially, we do that by busying ourselves, becoming fixated on the holidays and festivities, and always finding something else that needs doing, rather than being still and present... honoring what is.
Many of us have decided that it isn’t “acceptable,” “healthy,” or “ideal” to feel things like grief and sadness - emotions that fall on the shadow side of the spectrum.
We also may avoid feeling these things because we fear getting pulled down into them... succumbing to a darkness that we decided we don’t have time or inclination to hold space for or to feel.
The truth is, just as the leaves are meant to fall from the trees, feelings and emotions are meant to move through us, and in allowing ourselves to feel them, the emotional experience unfolds naturally, leading us to deeper knowledge of ourselves and ultimately giving way to a fuller experience of life. While it may feel safer to keep these things squashed and compressed within us, we’re really at our most powerful when we can let the natural occurrences of our feeling be present, big and fully expressed.
Each year as I transition into the season of the fall, grief and sorrow hit me anew. With each new cycle, it’s a different experience, and there are new realizations and shifts.
In fall, I’m present to the anniversary of my father’s passing - four years ago now - and also to the celebration of my mother’s birth, which has felt more and more challenging with each passing year as her Alzheimer’s progresses. While she’s still here, she is less present as the woman she has always been... slowly transitioning into a different state, that isn’t as familiar or accessible to me in the ways I have previously known.
This year especially, I realized how avoidant I’ve been of my feelings... packing my days, weeks, and months full of events, activities and experiences that keep me engaged and involved in a way that doesn’t allow for me to feel all that I am truly feeling. That doesn’t allow me to be still with myself and with what’s really present. And I’ll be honest, it’s because being still with myself in the shadow of my experience sometimes feels scary… I don’t know what will come up, what may be out of my control.
As I’ve become present to my own avoidance of experiencing the shadow that’s truly present in my life right now, I’ve also been deepening into new and powerful ways to care for myself and to hold space for what wants to be felt and cared for and expressed.
I’ve taken time to have conversations with loved ones - it helps to connect with others who know the people that I love and grieve. I’ve taken moments to myself to honor their birthday and their passing in a way that feels powerfully aligned for me. I’ve allowed myself to journal and to write, and I’ve watched films that let me cry.
I’ve allowed emotion to surface when it finds me, letting myself move and breathe and dance as tears begin to well in my eyes. I’ve deepened into this grief as a way to appreciate even more fully that I am alive.
I’ve taken opportunity to look at the changing colors of the leaves and to honor this ephemeral moment, before the branches are left naked and bare. To appreciate the beauty that is present in the sadness. I’ve cultivated comfort in a deeper familiarity with the cycles...for behind sorrow there is joy and behind joy there is sorrow and joy and sorrow and joy and sorrow and on and on and on it goes. I’ve supported myself by simply feeling my sadness and then, by appreciating life and all the beautiful contrast that it brings.
I’ve brought my attention to my breath time and time and time again. The most personal and intimate experience of cycles. In... and out. In... and out.
I invite you to take a moment now to allow yourself to fully feel the thread of each exhale, the way the movement occurs in your body as you let the breath go. Release. Allow the cycle to gently end.
Regardless of what’s coming up for you this fall, I pray you hold space for yourself to feel it. Call in the support you need. And trust yourself to be still with you, exactly where you find yourself.