Nature is like a giant cradle, the great equalizer and the great comforter. Yet when we are steeped in grief, it’s often difficult to find comfort in anything. We forget to step outside to watch a bee pollinate a flower, a riverbed flow to the ocean, a waterfall wash over us. To let the sun warm skin, waves soothe a hurting heart. Maybe you live in the city and forget to look up to the night sky and let the stars and moon speak to you. The moon has always played a powerful part of my life, connecting me to something so much bigger than me and the constructs of time. Nature has helped me to heal, and I believe it can help you as well.
When I was young I loved listening to John Lennon singing “Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns it calls me on and on across the universe.” But those lyrics resonate even more with me now, as the rhythms of love and loss have shaped the woman I’ve become.
“Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns it calls me on and on across the universe.”
— John Lennon
I wrote this essay, Time is Not Linear and Neither is Grief to explain what we cannot fully comprehend – how, in a moment, we can be brought back to the past and deep into grief memory. For me, this happens when I hear the song Harvest Moon by Neil Young.
I offer you this beautiful rendition of Neil Young singing Harvest Moon.
Walk the River Banks to Your Soul
Author Olivia Laing set out to walk the river’s banks from source to sea while navigating her own upheaval of the soul in the wake of heartbreak. She recorded her forty-two-mile existential expedition in To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface — one of those stunning, poetic books that reminds us just how walking in nature can heal us.
In the book Laing writes,
“I am haunted by waters. It may be that I’m too dry in myself, too English, or it may be simply that I’m susceptible to beauty, but I do not feel truly at ease on this earth unless there’s a river nearby.”
“When it hurts,” wrote the Polish poet Czeslaw Miłosz, “we return to the banks of certain rivers,” and I take comfort in his words,
“for there’s a river I’ve returned to over and again, in sickness and in health, in grief, in desolation and in joy.”
My Favorite Books This Month:
Every now and then a rare, magical book is written that offers readers a true glimpse into handling life’s biggest challenges. Professional storyteller and author Joel ben Izzy crafted such a book based on a time in his life when he had what I refer to as the triple punch of loss – first the loss of his voice through illness, then two people he loved.
Joel tells this surprisingly uplifting story with ancient folktales scattered throughout the book as he shows us a world of beggars and kings, monks and tigers that enhance his own life experiences. His teacher, Lenny, guides him through life’s challenges – showing most of our angels don’t have wings, but are humans also having a human experience—something I write about in my book too.
After reading this, you will want to buy this for all your favorite people – and pass on Joel’s secret of happiness.
A Mother Daughter Grief Book
A friend recommended this wonderful graphic book, which I devoured, What To Do When I’m Gone, a Mother’s Wisdom to her Daughter, alternately crying and laughing and immediately bought a copy for a close friend with a grown daughter. This graphic book was written by Suzy Hopkins and daughter Hallie Bateman who were in a lifelong conversation about life and death.
What To Do When I’m Gone offers day-by-day grief advice for the daughter after the mother dies with illustrations to show us how grief shifts throughout time, until the daughter is much older and still managing her grief. See one of my favorite excerpts – “Other Signs I’m Visiting You from the Other Realm” and other delightful chapters. This is a must have for any daughter – a manual for how to live without your mother.
In my book, You Are Not Alone, I wrote about Moon-light – how my love for the moon began when I was seven, laying in the grass with my father. I leave you with this short excerpt from my book, and encourage you to allow nature to whisper in your ear and assist you on your healing journey:
“The moon has helped me through many transitions in my life, but especially through all the ones of losing Jim – not realizing she’s been preparing me for loss all along, as her quiet face, still beckoning, moves an inch and a half further away from the earth each year. She has been my guide, helping me move forward, and whenever I am lost, even on a cloudy night when I can’t see her enthralling luminescence, I know she is there: as a full moon, a new moon, a crescent, or a quarter. Even if I can’t see all of her, knowing she is there is enough. Constant, no matter where I am.”
-Debbie Augenthaler, You Are Not Alone
is now available on Amazon!
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.