Songs of Nature

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Landscapes of Grief

A Pilgrim's Journey

By The Rev. Eyleen Farmer

With Photographs by Rebecca Webb Wilson

Image courtesy of Rebecca Wilson; copyright 2010Audio

There are many landscapes of grief. Scorched deserts and vast oceans come to mind. As do frozen winterscapes, rugged coastlines, and deep, tangled woods. Teeming city streets are landscapes too. And intensive care units and battlefields. Even secret gardens can be among grief’s landscapes.

There are numerous landscapes because our experiences of grief are so spectacularly varied. The death of a spouse after a decades-long marriage is very different from the wreckage of divorce. The feelings associated with the death of an aged parent will not be anything like the anguish of watching a child self-destruct. Being laid off, moving to a new and unfamiliar place, the ruin of a cherished dream, contracting a serious illness—all of these common life occurrences involve loss. Grief, whatever its form, is the normal response to those losses.

None of us will escape our own painful journeys through these landscapes. We may try to take detours around them or be carried over them or hide from them using our favorite avoidance strategies. But loss and the ensuing collapse of our assumptions about how our lives would or should be is a universal human experience.

Moreover, we don’t really “get over” our losses. They stay with us, shaping the contours of our lives. If sufficiently severe, they can distort our souls. But if we are brave enough to explore the territory—to undertake the pilgrim’s journey through grief’s landscapes—the sharp, ragged edges will gradually soften. At our journey’s end we will find a more immediate sense of gratitude, an expanded capacity for love, and even, at moments when we least expect it, the quickening of something akin to joy.

Each day, for the next 28 days, you will find a brief reflection on some aspect of grief. Some will speak to your experience and others, no doubt, will not. They are intended, not to make the pain go away (nothing can do that), but to provide you with tools and markers along the way. There are no rules for grieving the “right” way. There are no ten easy steps. But curiosity about your own experience will help. As will patience with your restless heart. And generous doses of self-forgiveness. Keep breathing. Don’t panic. Day by day you will be moving, whether it feels like it or not, toward the healing of your broken heart.


The Journey
Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry, hold not your peace at my tears. For I am a sojourner with you, a wayfarer as all my forebears were. —Psalm 39:13-14

Feeling Numb
I am utterly numb and crushed; I wail because of the groaning of my heart. —Psalm 38:8

You have noted my lamentation; put tears into your bottle; are they not written in your book?—Psalm. 56:8

Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, and hide yourself in time of trouble? —Psalm 10:1

Reproach has broken my heart, and it cannot be healed. —Psalm 69: 22

O LORD, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence... —Psalm 88:1-2

O, that God would demolish you utterly! —Psalm 52:5

Fatigue and Rest
Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee to a far-off place and make my lodging in the wilderness. —Psalm 55:7-8

I looked for sympathy but there was none, for comforters, but I could find no one. —Psalm 69: 22b

Unfinished Relationships
Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition. Listen to me and answer me...—Psalm 55: 1-2

Truly I am on the verge of falling, and my pain is always with me. —Psalm 38:17

Early Losses
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings. —Psalm 17:8

One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts its knowledge to another. —Psalm 19:2

By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. —Psalm 137:1-2

I love you, O LORD, my strength, O LORD, my stronghold, my crag, and my haven. —Psalm 18:1

I have come into deep waters, and the torrent washes over me. —Psalm 69:2

Anticipatory Grief
I think of God, I am restless, I ponder, and my spirit faints. You will not let my eyelids close; I am troubled and I cannot speak. —Psalm 77:4

Good Days
Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, for the early rains have covered it with pools of water. —Psalm 84:5

Secret Garden
Search me out, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my restless thoughts.  —Psalm 139:22    

How Long?
How long, O LORD? How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? —Psalm 13:1-2

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so my soul longs for you, O God! —Psalm 43:1

For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly my hope is in God. —Psalm 62:6

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm. 34:18

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me?— Psalm 42:6

I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds; I consider the works of your hands. —Psalm 143:5

Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. —Psalm 126:6

Communion of Grievers
I am poured out like water... —Psalm 22:14a

Holy Work
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. —Psalm 43:3