November is a poignant month. It includes Remembrance Sunday of course, which is an important occasion for reflection and recall. But it’s also a time when many remember their own more personal losses – particularly during the long, dark evenings and the lead up to Christmas.

Loss and grief are complex emotions and there is no guaranteed schedule for “getting over” them. In fact, I think most of us who have lost someone feel pretty much that we don’t wish to get over them, because we want them to remain forever in our hearts.

At the same time, we know we need to make new lives for ourselves. After all, we are the lucky ones who are still here. However, our efforts do not prevent us from missing those who have gone. And often, what we miss almost as much as our loved ones, is the life we had with them.

A widowed gentleman I know said to me recently: “I miss my wife in so many ways. But I also miss everything we had, and did, together. And I mourn the loss of what it was to be part of a couple.”

I’m sure many of us identify with that feeling.

However, lamenting a period in your life that you loved, is not limited to the bereaved.

Imagine, for example, what it must be like to have had to leave Ukraine or another country once regarded as home. Refugees the world over are dealing with this. 

They may be throwing themselves into new opportunities, but they must have days when they feel swamped with sorrow at their change of circumstances.

Then there are folk who had very fulfilling jobs and somehow feel diminished when they stop doing them. That is a very bleak feeling.

Last week, I was speaking to the former chief executive of a large corporation. She told me that the company still invite her to social get-togethers, but that though she’s pleased to be there, they tend to highlight her loss of status, especially when her successor steps up to make a speech. ‘That used to be my job,’ she says, ‘and I do find it difficult sometimes that it no longer is.’

I happen to know that this lady is not sitting around moping about what her life once was. She has packed her days with interesting activities including taking on a big volunteer role for a charity. She also sees more of her family and has travelled to a country she always wanted to visit. But part of her misses the life she had. And why wouldn’t she? She did it for a long time and loved it.

In this column I’m always urging readers to age positively by finding new purpose and zest for life when they are dealing with big changes. 

And that is very important and always will be. But I’d also like to say that, from time to time, we may need to allow ourselves to feel sad. 

Because the fact is that though our memories generally evoke feelings of gratitude for what we once had, sometimes melancholy sweeps over us and no amount of positive thinking seems to help.

If this is happening to you, please ask yourself if these lost and sorrowful feelings are present a lot of the time. Are they perhaps increasing? If they are, I suggest you see your doctor because you may be depressed.

Usually though, we’re aware that our current misery is occasional and temporary.

We can’t always be cheerful and the life and soul of the party. Nor can we always “get a grip” even if that’s what we tell ourselves to do. Now and then, we just have to accept that there are days when all the bad stuff catches up with us.

So what can we do?

Personally, I think a long walk in the woods is the best antidote to grief. But we’re all different. And anyway, on some dark, windy and rainy November days it’s hard to feel enthusiasm for the great outdoors.

An indoor activity therefore might work better, and one that can be very healing is to look through old photos. They might make us tearful, but usually they also regenerate feelings of thankfulness for the joy we had in that past which is now lost to us.

A nap can help. As can a long soak in the bath. Or listening to music that reminds you of a different part of your life. And usually, it’s beneficial to ring a friend and talk about it all.

After a few hours, you’ll probably feel somewhat soothed and able to acknowledge that though the past can never be repeated, you are OK, and can still have good times. Different times, I grant you, but good all the same.

The people and places and occupations we no longer have, were very special. We should and will remember them. They have made us what we are.