Is it Autumn already, or is this tree sick?

So many of my grieving clients start by telling me, “I think I’m going crazy!”

They compare how they’re feeling to how they normally feel and – since they’ve never really learned how grief works – they decide that all of this is *so* out of hand that they must be ready for psychiatric care.

And most of them are wrong.

Lucky for them, though, they reached out for help.

Why? So, let’s talk trees for a minute.

Huh?! Well, the cherry tree outside my living room window is a good example. Every year, while all the other trees are happily waving their lush green leaves in the summer breezes, the cherry tree’s leaves start turning yellow and dropping to the ground.

And every year when I see this happen, I think, “Oh no! It’s dying!”

It usually takes me a while – days or even a week – before I remember that *this is natural*. The tree has already created its fruit, which has ripened and fallen. (Because it’s a pie-cherry tree, and I don’t bake pies. And, besides, what else are the Stellar Jays and Grey Squirrels going to argue over?!)

This is natural timing for this tree species. There’s no need to worry.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop watering it. The tree needs ongoing care throughout its life. (Just like you do, I might add.)

But if I didn’t know this is normal cherry tree behavior, I’d need to check with an expert to find out what’s going on – shout out to Oregon Extension! Because, if I was wrong, I’d lose a beautiful shade tree, plus the entertainment of the deer coming by to munch the leaves. (And those of you who’ve met Forest, my office greeter, can figure that she would miss that, too! We can’t have that, now can we?!)

So, back to grief.

Grief can make you feel like you’re losing your leaves, so to speak. Like your normal life is falling to the ground around you. You look around and see that everyone else’s life is going on as normal, and it can make you feel like there’s something wrong with you.

Yet, just like trees dropping their leaves as they go dormant for winter, grief is a natural response to the loss of something or someone we care about. Whether that’s the understanding that life will not be continuing the way we’re used to – as when we’re told that we, or someone else we love, is ill beyond cure – or it’s the death of someone important to us.

If you’re experiencing one of these losses, chances are that your responses – such as changes to your sleep patterns, appetite, productivity, interest in socializing, and religious or existential certainty – are perfectly normal. Even when they might seem out of line to you. (Or to the people around you. But that’s another blog post.)

But you wouldn’t want to presume everything’s okay when it’s not, so meeting with someone who can assess your situation is a smart move. If you’d fallen, you’d go see a doctor to make sure everything’s okay. If she says it is, your body can relax and heal. If she says it isn’t, you get the care you need for whatever the problem is.

A coping or grief “check-up” is just as important. Unless you have the experience and the self-awareness to know absolutely how you respond, consult with a professional who specializes in the end-of-life and grief, and has plenty of experience in assessing those areas. In Oregon’s south Willamette Valley (Lane County), that’s me. And soon I’ll be providing care online and over the phone to people across the United States.

I look forward to helping you understand what’s normal in grief, and supporting you through your experience of it if you’d like. Please get in touch and we can talk about your options.


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