Esther Ramsay-Jones, author of Holding Time (2019), has written an accountof her mother’s acceptance of, and struggle with, living and dying with an agressive cancer of the brain. Esther is a specialist end-of-life psychotherapist and academic, and her book is about the value of listening, about our capacity for attunement and containment, in families, staff teams, and in the care profession at large. It is about how hard, yet how vital honest, intimate relating is, and it is a tender, gentle, and important reflection on love and loss.
Here, we are happy to share an extract on the importance of nature in grief and how it can offer some respite from the heaviness that can set in when a person has lost someone they loved.
“Freud once said something along the lines of ‘flowers are restful. They have no conflicts or emotions.’ We might imagine that in these times of agonising heartbreak, and the numbing paralysis of his daughter’s absence, he sought some peace in nature. Who knows?
But in my own grief and in the work I do with those processing their own endings, or the endings of people they have loved, some respite can be found in nature, a seemingly therapeutic realm that comes without the heaviness of thought and words: a trickling stream, a walk among wild grasses and flowers, the crashing of the sea, the waddling of baby ducks…al of these moments reconnect us to something larger than our own experience. We find that life has value simply because it is; because there is existence, and that existence holds within in a simple beauty.
In grief there is some understanding that movement, exercise, also helps with shifting us out of a focus on loss into states of greater restoration. If we also move outwards into nature perhaps the movement – at least momentarily – takes us out of the repetitive thoughts, offering a small break, often much needed, from our internal worlds. We can release tears and we can release ourselves from the tight grip of a controlled smiling face: we can be the storm, the wind, the stillness. Much research supports the view that nature is good for out mental well-being: anecdotally, I know this to be true.”