The Nature of Grief

It’s been over 6 months since the death of my mum and from time to time I still experience a sense ‘floating’, of not being able to put my feet on the ground, not able to feel parts of my body. It’s quite an unreal sensation and I’m not sure how to find my way through this. My inclination is to stay indoors, not trusting my body to be outdoors, but nature has always been a place where I heal best so I decide to keep going out to experience the landscape and hope that this will help me work through my sensations and painful feelings.

As I walk today, I notice that two seasons have almost come and gone since her death – nature continues its cycles whatever our happens in our personal world.  That, in itself, is both a solace and an outrage. The ambiguity of those feelings is not lost on me but helps me to understand how difficult grieving can sometimes be for us and those around us. As I contemplate this, I continue to allow nature to do its best and accompany my grieving process.

Experience tells me that working outdoors can be extremely helpful for people going through bereavement, loss, and grief. I have worked with clients on issues of loss and they often tell me how comforted they feel when they experience their therapy outdoors. This work can be continued beyond the therapy space in the client’s life. Sometimes people reflect on this work in their own outdoor spaces. It lets people know that they have resources around them, apart from me, that can be used to support their grief process. For some people it can act as a bridge across therapy sessions.

Using the landscape to help us articulate feelings of loss is often a useful element of outdoor therapy. Lately I have been working with a young man who had recently broken up with his long-term partner and was struggling to find the words to describe his loss.  Looking over at a huge dense area of brambles he describes a future worry of sitting alone in a chair as an older man unable to escape the brambles and no one attempting to ‘rescue’ him. It was a painful scene to witness with him. We then went on to talk about how to work his way out of the prickly painful place and how to begin to support himself through this loss.

Now as I continue my walk and look out over the valley watching the swallows returning, I’m reminded of all that has happened since they left for warmer climates. I notice too that I have probably gone through a different stage of grief and, like the seasons, may soon experience another stage that will help me heal and find solidity again in my life. That’s the nature of grief.