The Forest, The Trees
Hello dear friends! This post kicks off “Nature Heals”, a four-part series exploring how nature can help develop a deeper understanding of peace through grief…
There is an old saying, “Not seeing the forest for (because of) the trees” which means getting so trapped in the details that one fails to see the whole story.
This makes sense in grief, too. We can get so caught up in the details of our grieving that we are pulled away from the bigger picture: that we are alive right now — and freshly open to healing and transformation.
The details, or “trees”, of our grieving typically fall into three categories.
1) The Past
Much of our sorrow is brought about by recalling, and perhaps dwelling on, memories, moments, and past experiences that continue to bring forth pain. For me, this was recalling the phone call I received of my mom’s death and replaying the events of the day she passed. It was recalling the last conversation I had with her, the last time I saw her, our last hug, our last disagreement. I felt much grief over the past. In general, these trees or thoughts about the past can bring up regrets, remorse, resentment, anger and other difficult emotions. And if we let ourselves be taken away by the past, we become pulled away from our life.
2) The Future
Another great deal of our sorrow arises when thinking about what is to come, and how it is (suddenly) vastly different than what we once thought. This causes us great pain. We begin to worry about our future selves and wonder how we will get through upcoming events and dates, especially our first year. Anxiety and worry grows and our grief grows as well. We feel a certain level of despair and fear about the future.
3) The Present
The present moment is the place where, with our consciousness, we can see the trees of the past and the future as they arise. The beauty is that when we are able to fully be in the present moment, we will see the trees, but we will see the forest as well. In the present moment, we can see each source of grief clearly as it arises, yet we are grounded in the realization that we are alive, we are breathing, we are here. With our consciousness alive, we can resist getting sucked into a past filled with regrets or longing or being swept away by a hopeless future.
Instead, we can begin to face the reality of what is, right here and right now.
A tree in our forest has fallen, but the forest is still there. The fallen tree is actually just as important as each tree still standing. It is bringing nourishment to plants, animals, and wild life. When we look closely, the fallen tree is one of the essential elements that allows new life to grow.
So, next time you have the chance to take a walk in a forest, sit down for a while on a fallen tree. See yourself, your life, your ancestors, and your children in this tree. Look carefully and deeply at the abundance of new life that grows as a result of our beloved, fallen tree. Is it really dead if it is nourishing so much new life?
It is here that we realize a new relationship with our fallen trees in life. Our family and friends who have passed, our losses and sorrows, our grievances…these are the fertile trees that nourish our new life to grow.