“Grief, I say, come in. Sit down. I have tea. There is honey. This will take as long as it takes.”
– This Hallowed Wilderness
One of the programs I am responsible for at COPE is our healing workshops, opportunities for bereaved individuals to learn more about their grief and engage with different ways to cope with their feelings of loss. Though I love incorporating as many different interventions as possible, whether it be mindfulness, journaling, songwriting, drumming, art, movement, or yoga, my favorite grief intervention is the use of nature.
Perhaps it is because I grew up on 22 acres of farmland or lived for a decade next to Central Park, but my soul feels most at peace among nature, even mere steps away from one of the busiest cities on earth. Bringing that communion with nature to a grieving heart has always felt like a natural fit to me so through our workshops we have had beautiful professionals guide us through nature-based grief practices, share with us the “seasons of grief” and the parallels between the changing of the seasons and our own grief journeys, and help us find connection with nature through movement or stillness. We have even returned to some in person workshops, bringing together our COPE families at our COPE Labyrinth in Eisenhower Park. In the beautiful natural landscape of the park and nearby rose garden, our families can continue their bonds with loved ones through dedicated bricks and find opportunities for quiet reflection in walking of the Labyrinth.
My reflections on our nature-based workshops and events have particularly been on my mind as I consider our programs for the second half of the year and as we move into a new season: summer.
For some, summer will bring respite, time to take a breath, opportunities to connect with support systems and go to places that are filled with happy memories, or perhaps places that give you a break from being surrounded by the sad ones.
For others, there is a harsh juxtaposition of a time filled with sunshine, socialization, celebration, and the often dark, somber cloudiness of grief. It can be easier to be gentle with your grief and not feel guilty about staying in bed when it is 20 degrees out in February or pouring rain in April and no one else is out socializing either. But the summer might demand more of us socially. We might demand more of ourselves, thinking that another season has come and gone, it is warm, and the sun is shining, there is so much to look forward to, why don’t we feel better?
But the seasons move forward, and the earth rotates around the sun whether we are grieving or not. We are not beholden to its gravitational pull. Our grief will take the time it needs.
We can let the changing of the seasons and the warmth of summer reflect what is in our hearts and lean into what it can offer us for rest, connection, or healing. Perhaps it will inspire in us a brightness we have not yet been able to access.
Or we can give ourselves grace, allow it to pass by and offer ourselves more time, knowing summer will come again next year.
Claire Sharkey, LCSW
Clinical and Program Director, COPE Foundation