Nature is a one of the great comforters for me. It is somewhere I can go to meditate and collect my thoughts. Ambassador Deirdre talks about how going into nature helped while she coped with the loss of two friends.

“As long as I can I will look at this world for both of us. As long as I can I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us.”

I lost two friends in two weeks. Unexpectedly. Two dear friends that were my age; too young to die. So many big plans, so many memories to make, the whole world left to explore. These were women who’d smile and you would remember it forever. They were listeners and wise beyond years. They were women who heard my dreams, goals and deepest fears. And supported me fully.

It’s very hard to handle the grief that comes with such loss.

This is a devastating reminder to live. To tell people you love them and to spread kindness. Because the truth of life is that it is going to end. So while you’re given time here on earth, live your passions and live big. I often preach the sentiment of not settling or conforming to the standards we’re told exist. And while I understand that can be difficult, I urge everyone to please, follow your heart.

To deal with most things, I escape to wilderness.

To running streams, tall trees, chatty squirrels and vast space. Because sorting out feelings requires clean air. And the primal need to move helps express things that are hard to say.

I call walks through nature like this Rage Walks. Even if rage isn’t the feeling, per se. They are walks with no destination or purpose, other than to get lost in thought or to think of nothing at all. They can be miles and miles long. Or a five minute excursion to nowhere. Either way, it is beneficial. We all know this to some extent. The grief/nature connection is strong and I’d like to lay out for you why that is. From my non-scientific perspective.

• Nature shows us that death is… natural. Even if it seems unjust or cruel. Every living thing comes to an end. From autumn leaves to wildflowers. Apex predators to the tiniest bird.

• Life goes on. The earth continues to live, and so do the beings on it. The circle of life continues. There will be new leaves in the spring. More wildflowers. Baby animals and new beginnings.

• There is solace in nature. Whether it’s familiar landscapes, animals and plants that hold memories or certain scents that bring you back to a specific time of life. I often find solace when nature makes me realize how small I am. When everything is put into perspective with a giant storm or a towering mountain. A healing gift only the wild can give.

• Moving your body releases feel-good endorphins that can aid in stress reduction. A walk in the woods can be very meditative, allowing your brain to relax and think about things in a new way. Yes, even death.

• Wild things instill hope. It is easy to feel hopeless when facing grief and loss. But there is something magical about the natural world. And sometimes a little magic can really help.

After I received news of my second friends passing, I laced up my running shoes and leashed up my dog. We walked out the door and headed for the woods. I thought a walk was in order, but as it turned out, that wasn’t enough. I found myself running. Faster and faster. The trees were rustling and leaves were crunching under foot. When I had nothing left in me to exert, I stopped. And sat. And held my head in my hands and cried. I cried softly and silently for some time. Tears that would not come at home or in front of others. Tears that I’d felt for too long needed to come pouring out. There I sat, crying on trail, surrounded by all the beauty our world offers, free of judgement and free of the support many try to offer. Alone with thoughts and feelings. A space to just be. And maybe when it comes down to it, that’s the biggest gift nature can give us. A place to just be. To be alive. To be human.

I walked home with my dog, who had spent his Rage Walk sniffing at rocks and gazing at birds. The feelings of sadness and anger and loss were not gone, but they’d mellowed. My thoughts were more clear and that bottled up grief had erupted. Over time these strong emotions will weaken. And with every walk in the woods, my heart will heal a little more.

“Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.” – John Muir

5 comments on “Grieving in nature

  1. On May 29, 2017 I got the call that our 25 yr old son had died in his sleep. It was such a tremendous shock that I collapsed with physical pain. Then the emotional pain came. There were no words that could heal my broken heart. No amount of comfort would help. So I started hiking. I had never hiked before and I didn’t understand at the time why I decided to, but I knew I had to escape the house, the well meaning visitors, the noise of the tv my husband used as white noise to help him with his grief. I had to get away. It was hard at first, but the physical exhaustion from a long hike numbed the pain in my hurting heart. This past May which marked the one yr anniversary of losing Matthew, I recorded my hiking total for the year as over 1300km. The wilderness saved me from losing my mind. I needed those long hikes alone in the forest. I’m still hiking and I love it.

    • I’m glad that you found that nature helps. It’s a wonderful, healing thing. I took a mindfulness retreat and we took walked mindfully and looked, touched, listened, and smelled nature while thinking.

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