Wild Comfort: Nature’s Gifts in Grief



I love naturalist John Muir’s words written long ago from Yosemite that “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  I often hear persons in grief still echo his words of truth.  Over and over, persons tell me of experiences in nature which have nurtured their path into healing and restoration of emotional strength.  Whether it is the visit of a swarm of yellow butterflies at a memorial service, beginning a morning cup of coffee looking out at the flaming maple tree planted in memory of a red-haired daughter, or collecting rocks from the Kiniksu National Forest beloved by a son, these moments give harbingers of hope that life will continue with meaning and joy again.   For my husband, backpacking for a week of solitude in the Olympic Rain Forest with our retriever Scout, two years after our daughter died, became a gentle turning point towards peace.


A contemporary naturalist from Oregon, Kathleen Dean Moore, writes of a season where several devastating deaths left her immersed in sorrow.  So she turned to the comfort of the wild to see what the natural world might teach her about sorrow and gladness.  She writes meditations of these excursions of tracking otters on the beach, wading among migrating salmon in the dark, cooking breakfast in the desert, canoeing in a snow squall in her book Wild Comfort:  The Solace of Nature.  She found such intentional connection to the natural world gave reassurance to her soul, moving her to hope and courage, healing and gratitude. As she expresses,

“I have felt their peace, the steady surge and flow of the sea on sand, water slipping over stones.  There is meaning in the natural rhythms of dying and living, winter and spring, bones and leaves.  Even in times of bewilderment or despair, there is steadfast ground underfoot–pine duff, baked clay, stone turned red in the rain.  I am trying to understand this, the power of water, air, earth, and time to bring gladness gradually from grief and to restore meaning to lives that seem empty or unmoored.”

When I walk outside, the leaves on our Witch Hazel, burning bush, lace-leaf Japanese maples, and Virginia Creeper have begun their magic metamorphosis…and my heart still leaps at their stunning beauty.

Have moments in nature offered solace for you?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast






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Pilgrimage (54 Posts)

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child offers encouragement and information for other parents living in the long season of sorrow. Drawn from interviews from mothers and fathers on their grief journey, plus Linda Lawrence Hunt's memoir of their family's loss, it also includes recent research on grief, resilience, and creative healing.

2 Responses to Wild Comfort: Nature’s Gifts in Grief

  • First of all, I have to tell you that I was in Gamma Phi Beta with your unforgettable Krista. Even from a distance she inspired others. My favorite memory of her is on Hood Canal during the Passages part of our orientation. The sun seemed like a spotlight shining only on her as she read Walt Whitman (or it could have been Thoreau) to welcome us that morning. Her voice was such a blend of confidence and wisdom that the entire group of rowdy new college freshmen quieted to listen. Even professors couldn’t do that! I remember thinking, “this is a special woman who I need to know. ” Anyways, my point is that I remember her in nature and maybe that’s one reason why you, her parents, feel refreshed there – because she loved it too.

    I lost a child in utero. This baby, I believe was a girl, was only ever seen by myself, my doctor, and a nurse. I don’t even have a picture of the ultrasound but sometimes, when I close my eyes at night, I still see her steady, beating heart on that screen. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. For me, the rhythms of nature are my comfort and they are always there. Someone told me that my baby, “budded on earth to bloom in Heaven.” I have to believe that someday I will see her in full bloom. That is my hope!

    • Nicole,
      Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory…what a gift you gave us this exquisite fall morning! Also, thank you for sharing the story of your beloved unborn child. In my upcoming book Pilgrimage through Loss, I include stories from parents who have still-borns and I talked also with mothers grieving in miscarriages. How good you have found a way nature comforts and are living with a hope…it can make all the difference.

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About Linda
For everyone, life sometimes brings shipwreck moments.

Ours happened when four friends woke us one beautiful May dawn to break the news that our 25-year-old married daughter Krista had died 7000 miles away while volunteering in Bolivia. Our hearts shattered, much like the shards of her bus that plunged over a mountain cliff.
Follow our path…

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Desperate. Determined. Unwaveringly confident. In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On Foot. BOLD SPIRIT: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk across Victorian America introduces readers to this fascinating journey of an audacious act of courage and love of a mother trying to save a family farm.

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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website www.allianceofhope.org

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer) www.acco.org

+ Compassionate Friends www.compassionatefriends.org

+ First Candle: www.firstcandle.org Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) www.catholiccharities.net/loss

+ MISS Foundation (also in Spanish) www.missfoundation.org On-line support groups : Infant & toddler death and advocacy

+Parents of Murdered Children www.pomc.com

+ TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: www.taps.org 1-800-959 3277 for survivors of military deaths