During my darkest moments, I wanted to shut down, sit in a corner and allow life to past by. I was numb and felt paralyzed by grief. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, although several people thought they should tell me. What I did know was that I wanted to grieve in my own way, in my own timing.
I remember standing in the grocery store and seeing the turmoil of people coming and going down the aisles. They seemed to be oblivious and uncaring about the pain I was holding, as they went about their day of eating, socializing, working, playing and sleeping. I was just trying to get from one day to another. I was figuring out a way to cope with my new reality, but it was so hard. Who am I now? How has this loss changed me?
I was processing.
I started to rely on the wisdom that I found in nature. The lessons that it would share when emotions, thoughts, ponderings and confusion overwhelmed me, helped me to be open and honest with myself. I sat with grief. I allowed it wash over me.
In those early days of spending time in nature, I focused on my breath. I had read somewhere that when I inhale, the trees exhale. When I exhale, the tress inhale. This felt poetic and beautiful. I had not given breathing much thought, most of my life. It was just something I did out of necessity, nothing more. I didn’t even know how to use breath as a method to calm myself. I experimented.
Notice and pause.
I found myself wandering along a path until an aroma caught my attention. My sense of smell would heighten as I closed my eyes and tipped my head back to take in the fragrance in the air. My breath would slow, but become deep, filling the capacity of my lungs. I would hold it as long as was comfortable and release it ever so carefully. This seemed to allow my whole body to relax. I felt release. I envisioned that I was pulling in goodness and pushing out unhealthy thoughts and toxins.
Life went on.
Just as the people in the grocery store were demonstrating that life went on, so did the forest. Even after stormy nights, the dripping foliage in the morning sunlight seemed to bring louder birdsong, fresher scents, vivid green and hope floating along the gentle breeze. I practiced my breath. I found I became more patient with myself as I could remember to take several long breaths before becoming distracted by the happenings in the forest along my path. It became part of my walk, every time.
It started small. I would pause for a deep breath, when I could remember to do it. New aromas in the woods helped to nudge my brain to trigger the response of pausing. The more I listened to this signal, the easier it became. In fact, I eventually sought out my ‘breath moment’ as I wandered. It filled me with anticipation, and it seemed to make the experience deeper. Maybe because I became more open to it. Maybe because I saw its value. Maybe just because it was calming.
While in the midst of grief, there is confusion, distractions, and heightened emotions. I found that I needed to choose the things that brought me calm moments. I often had to deliberately make an effort to pursue them. You may need to as well. There is no ‘normal’ way of being and I needed to find what worked for me, just like you will need to for you. The most important lesson of the forest here is that experiences like this await you. Choose to notice.
Connect with nature, one step at a time.