Enchanted Keys Key 9: Nature

Nature’s Solace: Healing Grief

Nature’s solace is a healing force available to everyone.



Fifteen years have passed since the events of September 11, 2001 changed us forever. It’s hard to imagine. Our focus this month is on Enchanted Key #9-Nature. We honor the loved ones of our fallen heroes, whether from that day or any tragic circumstances, through nature’s part in healing grief.


According to the Mother Nature Network, being out in and communing with nature puts us in touch with the cyclical rhythm of the seasons. New life blossoms and there is also decay and death. Sometimes young buds don’t have the chance to open and berries prematurely fall from the trees. So it is with life. The extreme circumstances of 9/11 have left us feeling vulnerable and aware of the fragility of life.


When we are dwarfed by nature, there’s a deep awareness of forces that are greater than ourselves. Whether there has been violence, illness, accident, or separation of one kind or another, we can find comfort in the routine rising and setting of the sun, the change of seasons, and the regulating laws of the universe that continue around us. This offers constancy in a world that has been upended by chaos.


Memorial Gardens, or Grief Gardens, as they are sometimes called, have become more prevalent. When we work the earth with our hands, there is a release of tension from our physical bodies. Anguish and tears in the garden can be transformed into nourishing food or beautiful flowers. It is a powerful way to deal with grief and heal ourselves in a partnership with nature.


As a mental health therapist, I was trained to look for markers in time by which to assess the progression of healing through grief. Time and experience have taught me that healing is an individual process that has nothing to do with those markers. Friends and family of those grieving often express concern when someone spends “too much time” at the cemetery. I ask them if they would have as much concern if the grieving person went to the park every day instead. Most often they say, “No.” The reason seems to be the belief that they are surrounding themselves with life at the park and death at the cemetery.

What I hear most often from those grieving is that there is the silence at the cemetery that they don’t experience anywhere else. They become aware of the birds chirping and the rustling leaves on the trees. They’re able to be still and hear their own thoughts. They sit in silence with their loved ones in a way that perhaps they never did prior to the death. Of course there is a delicate balance between spending time in the other world versus this one, but there is also comfort in nature’s presence in both spaces.


There is an expression, “Life is for the living.” When I ask mourners if their departed loved ones would want them barely breathing, hardly eating, and feeling disconnected from life the answer is never, “Yes!” Of course as with any transition, it takes time to create a new “normal.” We honor the memory of our loved ones by living our lives even more fully. We become the custodians of deep connection, memories, both those of the past and the future, and we owe it to them and ourselves to live each day in gratitude for the gift of life that we’ve been given.

Surround yourselves with living trees, vibrant flowers, birds in flight, healing rain, and find solace and rejuvenation in nature.

To the families of those lost during 9/11 and to all who are grieving losses, I invite you to step out into nature and feel her loving arms around you.

I wish you peace.

Write a comment