Colorful Autumn Leaves Can Prepare Us for Death and Dying


What do autumn leaves signify?

One of my favorite songs is titled "September Song." It uses the month of September as a metaphor for the last stage of life if we become elderly, as I have. In Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages, it is Stage 8, that of Integrity versus Despair with the hoped for goal of wisdom. The song emphasizes desiring to spend as much time with loved ones and what feels most important as possible.

September in parts of the northern hemisphere, especially in the United States, begins the beautiful coloring of many leaves. That can also be a metaphor for the potential beauty of Stage 8, where a review of the fulfilled purpose of our lives can bring a sense of integrity. Now, we are deep in October. Times with remaining loved ones can be precious and an opportunity to tie up any unsettled aspects of important relationships before they and we fall off, as do the leaves, leaving the cycles of life to the next year and the next generation.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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