DEAR HARRIETTE: My father died nearly 20 years ago, and I am only now dealing with the grief that I had bottled up over the years. I realize that I was angry with him for many years for things that happened when I was a child. Now that I am a parent myself, I see that he was doing the best he could. There are things that he messed up on, but when I look back on it, I think that he did way more good than bad. How can I forgive myself for not appreciating my father more when he was alive? I feel horrible. -- Needing Forgiveness
DEAR NEEDING FORGIVENESS: Grief is fascinating; it can rise up many years after a loved one’s passing. It can feel raw and real, even more so than the early days. The good news is that you are able to see your father more compassionately and with greater perspective of what it means to be a parent and a provider. When you were younger, you did not have the skill set or understanding that you have today. You can forgive yourself for whatever naivete you had back then and for not having the capacity for compassion at the time. You can also forgive him for whatever he did that left you wanting.
You may want to see a therapist to help you explore your past and wrestle out of any emotional stranglehold that is trapping you. It may have taken all this time for you to be ready for a breakthrough.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I work from home, which is good -- for the most part. I have flexible hours, and I am pretty efficient. But lately, I have been feeling down and disconnected from other people. I don’t go out much anymore. Now that it’s cold, I often pass on invitations to go to events in the city or to meet up with friends. My world is narrowing, which isn't good, but I also can’t seem to shake it. I make plans to go out, but then cancel. I order in food, and I even have my laundry picked up and delivered. How can I break out of this pattern? I don’t feel happy or motivated at all. -- Self-Exiled
DEAR SELF-EXILED: You may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder, which is a real condition, a form of depression that affects many people as the seasons change. In the fall and winter, those suffering from this disorder often feel helpless and isolated. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms include: feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; having low energy; experiencing changes in your appetite or weight; feeling sluggish or agitated; having difficulty concentrating; feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty; or having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in a consistent way, it is time to go to the doctor to get help. If your symptoms are mild, doctors say that light therapy can be helpful. Literally going outside when the sun is shining can brighten your spirits. Psychotherapy can also support you during this difficult time.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)