Going to fairs and festivals with friends will lift your spirits
The local seasonal fairs and festivals are sources of pleasure, and so are regional towns with specific ethnic interests, restaurants, and people. Going to these with friends, or even by yourself, will lift your spirits from the shadow of long-term grief.
This summer as usual, I went to Swedish Days in Geneva with two dear friends. Lots of food, blocks of sidewalk sales, cheerful crowds, music, folk dancing demonstrations, sports, contests, and wonderful shops such as the Little Traveler, and cute restaurants. We enjoyed a beautiful day including a visit to a great Scandinavian shop, The Gift Box, which also has a lot of deli items and, of course, lingonberries.
We always eat lunch at the Stockholm Pub next door, and did again this year. Swedish Days has become a fun tradition.
Building some new traditions is very positive for coping with long-term grief. You need new memories, not just old ones.
And there are also fall festivals like the Harvest Fest in West Dundee, Illinois. Music, food, lots of craft tents on the river walk … the whole thing. They also put up a big main tent, have a pancake breakfast, and have live bands, rain or shine, daytime and evening.
Another fun thing is to go to nearby "ethnic" towns such as the Swiss-built town of New Glarus, Wisconsin. It has many milk cow statues on the sidewalks and in front of shops. There is an amazing Swiss/German restaurant with the most authentic food I've ever had outside Switzerland. There's also lots of chocolate and cheese shops, and antique shops.
And the nearby Norwegian village of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, has a wonderful Scandinavian shop packed with treasures -- dishes, linens, trolls, tiles, books, serving trays -- all things Scandinavian.
Unique attractions in Mt. Horeb include the huge troll carvings in the front yards, in front of shops. They carve old tree stumps into troll statues, all very decorative and interesting.
There is a whole folklore around trolls and their families, not only in Norway, but also in Sweden. A mythical world of trolls who live in the forests. They even tuck their tails up in their skirts or pants and mix among humans, or so the legends go,
My own community in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, has great community festivals. My favorite is the Fourth of July when the local parade goes right by my front porch. I have friends over, cook up picnic-type food, and later we go down to the village green and hear live music and enjoy more refreshments.
And then there is Halloween in Sleepy Hollow with the biggest bonfire you ever did see, attended by the local fire department, and a nighttime ride by the headless horseman, and later a huge fireworks display, which I can see from my front porch.
All these fests and quaint towns are quite engaging. And that's the point. Both community activities and being "outside" yourself are very important in dealing with long-term grief.
Think outside. Go with friends or family and be around people. It's fun just to see all the families and people enjoying themselves. It lifts your spirits.
• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com.