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Why Does Fall Feel So Emotionally Charged?

We are at the point in the season where most of the leaves have departed from their primary roots, ready to be swept away or sunken into the dearth of the land. We, in the Northeast, have familiarized ourselves with crisp mornings met with hot coffees, the scent of the sun shining on to fallen leaves, and the increased consciousness around the impermanence of time.

Simultaneously, this past week, we have been met with perspiration, humidity, and summer-like temperatures. This led me to the curiosity around the emotional experiences of Fall. I spent time reflecting this morning on questions like: why does Fall feel so difficult for many… and why am I feeling “off?”


Fall is societally associated with all-things-pumpkin-spice, togetherness, shared meals, nostalgia, and a sense of renewal. But for many… the antithesis occurs. Leaving bed for a pumpkin spice latte is not feasible, isolation ensues, and emptiness speaks loudly. For a portion of us, Autumn feels like a dark vacuum of uncertainty and unwanted change.

As the flowerpots become dormant, the air becomes cooler (or not…), and lightness dissipates, we are reminded that time is passing. Time is directional. Time is fleeting. For me, the lingering heat during a season that initiates coldness stimulates a poignant sense of sadness. This week’s high temperatures feel yet another one of earth’s notifications to humanity: It is screaming out that this planet we inhabit is not forever – it is dying at the hands of capitalism.

Autumn welcomes mourning. We are mourning the lack of light, mourning the passing of time, and mourning the losses that we have endured in our lives. We might be mourning more than we have in our past, as we enter another COVID winter in a country wrought with political polarization, gun violence, and an overwhelming sense of animosity. For many, this Fall feels like grief, and grief is painful.

Seasonal affective disorder is a prominent and real diagnosis, and its symptoms are akin to that of a depressive episode. Stirs of sadness, fatigue, appetite shifts, and decreased motivation tend to deviously trickle in once again as Fall approaches.

As our TikTok "fyp" becomes satiated with Thanksgiving gratitude posts, winter sweater hauls, and cozy family board game nights, know that this season is also filled with loneliness, grief, and hurt for many.

While there is not one “easy-fix,” for this emotional heaviness that this Fall may be throwing you, attempt to normalize this experience, provide yourself with grace and compassion, and allow yourself to be slow. Fall might just be nature’s prompt to rebel against societal norms – a time to rest, re-set, and re-fuel.

Regardless of your relationship to the shift in the seasons, you are valid in your emotions. Reach out for support when and if you need and know that you are never alone.


By: Emily Powell, M.S.Ed, M.Phil.Ed

Emily is a clinical mental health therapist working with teens and young adults in Pennsylvania.


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