Holding on to Hope This Winter Season

A few days before Halloween, I woke up to a world blanketed by snow. I live in Boston, and although the winters are cold, I wasn’t expecting to see snow before Halloween. As I peered outside, I was taken aback by branches heavy with snow and frost creeping up the windows. I usually await the first snow of the year with a kind of childish delight, but this morning I felt my heart sink as I thought about the upcoming winter season.

RELATED: How I’m Going to Thrive This Winter

It has been a long pandemic and a disheartening one. I have much to be grateful for, a loving family, friends, and boyfriend to talk to. A warm, cozy place to stay and food to eat, including chocolate, whenever I am hungry. I count my blessings, but I also join in grieving the loss of many things. I graduated from divinity school in May, a graduation which was robbed of joy because our ceremony was necessarily cancelled. There were many friends I did not get the chance to say goodbye to. 

Since graduation, I have been unemployed and have felt deeply the loss of belonging and meaning that so often accompanies unemployment. I am a social introvert, but I miss my friends. I even miss going to parties — dinner parties, bad Halloween parties, even awkward parties where you don’t really know anyone. 

I miss talking to random people at grocery stores and movie theaters. Maybe the conversations weren’t much, but they meant interacting with another human. I didn’t realize how meaningful that was until it all came to a stop. And now the snow is here, earlier than expected, beautiful, but also feeling kind of like a kick in the shin at the worst time possible.

How do we stay well as the winter season approaches with no end to the pandemic in sight? First off, I think we acknowledge that things are hard right now. They are painful. We make space for grief, we are kind to ourselves. 

In the midst of that, I think we also dare to hope. Because, let’s remind ourselves, this is not the perpetual, Christmas-less, winter of Narnia. This pandemic WILL end eventually. And until it does, we still have choices to make, people to stay in touch with, goals to work towards. 

We have friends to call and check in with, we have books to read, letters to write, and new recipes to try. And when we can’t do any of that, we can ask for help from friends, family members, and professionals. I can’t stress this enough: If you are feeling depressed and anxious during this pandemic season, you are not alone. There are so many people feeling exactly the same way. Make a call, ask for help.

I have personally found it so important to be honest with friends and family about where I am at and what I am feeling, whether that’s telling a friend I feel lonely or sad or asking my mother to pray for me because I am discouraged. 

I’ve also found that this is a good time for investing in letter-writing and relationships with pen pals. I currently have four pen pals, and the act of writing and receiving letters offers me much needed joy and human connection. Our friends and family are still out there and we need each other more than ever. Together we will make it through this pandemic and this winter.

I was discouraged by the sight of snow this morning, but the day didn’t end there. Shortly

afterward I saw a Mary Oliver poem on Instagram shared by @samanthawelker and it lifted my spirits. Here is a snippet of that poem:

“Still what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast away the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing–
That the light is everything — that is is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.”

This poem was shared by someone all the way in California, and it lifted my spirits more than anything else. Perhaps human connection isn’t as far from us as we think. 

After I read the poem, my boyfriend and I went outside to shovel. Because of the heavy snow, many branches had broken off the trees and landed in the street. A large branch had fallen into a neighbor’s driveway and she couldn’t move it by herself. We ended up moving it for her and then chatting for a few minutes. The snow had actually given us an opportunity to get to know a neighbor.

This winter will be different, but it will also be full of its own possibilities. Opportunities to help a stranger, online book clubs, cookies to bake and leave on doorsteps, Christmas cards to send. If only we are “willing to be dazzled,” by the moments this season will present. The phone calls, and socially distanced meetings, the care packages and yes, the snow. Spring will come again. The flowers will blossom. I will be holding that in mind as the winter season comes, and I will try my best, to relish every gorgeous flake of snow.

Content Survey (Inline)

We want to know what you think!

Heather Burtman lives, works, and writes in New Haven, CT where she also attends Yale Divinity School. Her favorite forms of procrastination include dancing and knitting hats with over-sized pom poms.