Grief Lessons in Nature


This past week, in between various errands and chores and work tasks, I took an hour or so to go for a walk at one of my favorite hiking trails nearby. It’s been on my mind ever since, for a few reasons. I don’t really take time to myself out in nature anymore like I used to. Life is so much busier now and there just never seems to be time. More like I always seem to find 50 other things I “should” be doing. So it was a real treat to spend a few hours just going for a walk.

I walked a short way down the trail before returning to my car, which happened to be parked at a little pullover on the side of the road, just in front of a creek. There’s a bench I know of, just past my car, that sits overlooking the creek. I went to sit for a while, and discovered a little painted stone someone had left on the bench. It was gold, with a smiley face painted on it, and the word “Happy” written clearly by a child. It brightened me even further, feeling like a sign or confirmation that I need to do this more for myself… get out in nature on my own so that I can truly connect with it. Little did I know there was an even bigger sign in front of me, with a beautiful lesson...


I sat for a long while there on the bench… looking up at the trees towering overhead, and down at the gentle creek smoothly making its way on its own journey. I noticed several small dams along the creek that aren’t normally there. They were clearly built up by someone who came here before me, and created a gentle detour for the creek water to flow through.

As I sat watching the water flowing around the stones of the dams, I thought a lot about life. In particular, about the hard stuff of life. I’d heard a friend just days before describing herself as feeling like she was swimming against the current with her life and her grief lately. And I thought of her as I looked out at the water, saying to myself, “We always seem to think in life that we are in the water, being thrashed around by its current. That everything is a battle against that current. But what if that’s not the only way to see it?” As I watched the tranquil journey of that creek, I continued on that thought…

What if, instead, we could remember that we are the water? That we can flow past any obstacle that life puts in our way. That we can be both gentle and also powerful, and that no matter the twists and turns our life’s journey takes us on… we will each of us arrive one day at the ocean?

What if that’s what happens when our loved ones die… they split off from us, forming their own creek that rushes more quickly or down steeper terrain, and they reach the ocean before us? Maybe that’s how it is. And if so, then they are there now, in the ocean, and they will be there when we arrive.

It was all such a beautiful thought, I actually wrote a bit about the experience that very day in my journal. Had I not stopped to take some time to myself to really pay attention to the things around me that day, I would have never noticed that amazingly profound lesson in the tiniest of things... just a string of stones in the water, with so much more to say. We are not struggling against the current. We are the current. And we can flow through anything.

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  • commented 2017-07-17 00:53:28 -0700
    I get what you’re saying. But I feel like diverted water that was headed down the stream and now I’m stuck in a puddle where the water around me has evaporated and my only hope is for more water to get me over the threshold.