Forest Bathing & Forest Therapy for Grief
Forest Therapy for Grief; My Research
Talk therapy with a grief-trained practitioner can be really helpful for people when they are trying to understand and cope with immense loss.
Nature can also offer us a gentle and reassuring sanctuary for the most difficult of emotions that arise during hard times, when we allow her to hold us. Read more about why I'm exploring how nature might just be the perfect balm for people impacted by profound loss.
"In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks" - John Muir
The Impact of Grief on the Body &
Why Forest Therapy?
Grief is not just a sad time following the death of someone we love. We often experience lots of losses throughout our lives and grief can impact us on every level: emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually & socially.
Loss shapes us and re-shapes us
I often say that profound loss, especially when unexpected or traumatic, is like someone taking a sledge hammer to our nervous system; the reverberations can last for weeks, months or even years. Grief can re-shape us to the very core. At times, our grief can feel so much bigger than we can hold, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and paralysed.
What Happens When Someone We Love Dies?
We aren't just thinking beings existing in nature, we are nature. Like animals, we are wired for attachment to preserve our species, wired to be together and thrive in community, among other humans. Much of modern lifestyle doesn't give us space for this, so we rely on a few close people to regulate us in the world, to give us a sense of purpose and offer us meaning in our lives. When one of them dies, it can feel catastrophic. In an instant, nothing makes sense anymore.
What I have noticed in Practice
Often people coming for grief support describe profound physical symptoms. A pain in their chest, inability to sleep, more general illness than usual, high levels of anxiety, stomach upsets, suicidal ideation, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, to name but a few. These physical symptoms, along with deep emotional distress, can leave people feeling overwhelmed and under-supported.
Resourcing Ourselves in Nature
As a somatic-informed practictioner, I have always known how stress can impact our bodies and the importance of finding ways to regulate ourselves, particularly after the dysregulating experience of loss. I often found myself suggesting to clients to take a walk down to the beach and paddle after our session, or go to the forest and walk barefoot if they can, or even just a trip to the back-garden to lie in the grass. Somehow, nature is bigger than all of us, big enough to hold this profound experience. I found this to be particularly important for the women who's babies had died around childbirth. They often lose confidence in their bodies & walking with me outdoors as they talk about their loss would help to engender trust in their bodies again.
Shinrin Yoku - Forest Bathing
When I first read about the therapeutic effects of the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku), I immediately noticed that it seemed to be the perfect antidote to many of the common decrements of health that can happen as a result of bereavement. My PhD research, with the Technological University of the Shannon, is exploring how a series of Forest Therapy sessions might impact the health of bereaved adults.
Rather than lose myself in a pile of books and academic papers, I decided to also lose myself in the forest, engaging in a Forest Bathing Guide Training & a Forest Therapy Practitioner Training with Nádúr; the brain learns from experience more than knowledge, after all. The video below shows some of the photos I've taken in the past couple of months while out walking the forests and woodlands with my dogs. The music is The Lost Words - now the theme song of the Shapes Of Grief podcast, isn't it so soothing?
The journey is ongoing!
If you are interested in taking part in some future research, keep an eye out on Shapes Of Grief social media channels or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Opportunities to Participate in Current Research will be posted below
Become grief-literate today!
Shapes of Grief Training Programme
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