Finding Grounding in Times of Grief

Photography by Carl Dickens 

Photography by Carl Dickens 

Finding Grounding in Times of Grief by Michelle Katz

Grief can arise in the face of loss of someone precious to us, in times of illness, at the end of a significant period of time, or through the experience of various other life transitions.  For me, the most overwhelming of grief happens in times when I realize I failed to be who I thought I was. 

This past week, something happened that left me questioning everything I believe I am.  I spiraled deep into grief.  I fluctuated through all the emotional stages, denial came first and strongly, telling myself all sort of naive stories about myself; then, angry and blaming, energy flowing out of me in wild ways, forcing my issue onto others as their fault and their doing which caused my life to forever be changed.  I began to then think of all the things I could have done differently, “if only I had…”  and this is when it really hit me hard. In the bargaining and depression, where I realized it’s all about me and my choices that have led me here.  Somewhere along the way I seemed to have abandoned myself, falling unconscious, and thus put my integrity and well-being all on the line.  Sometimes, as humans, we make bad decisions.  And so I sat in this knowing which plummeted me into the depths, the deep depression of knowing I am not who I thought I was. 

At times like these, though leaving the house may very well be the hardest thing to do, time on the land beckons me toward knowing something greater, toward healing.

I came to the landscape of mesa tops and petroglyphs for perspective: both of ancient timelines and outstretched mountain, village, and distant views.  The petroglyphs reminded me of the ancestors, all those who came before and the struggles they faced and survived; the landscape vistas showed me how many ways one could look at something, even when standing in one spot.  And then, with a nothing other than sudden BANG! I recalled that this landscape is surrounded by shooting grounds.  With each trigger pulled and shot released, I felt my ideas of myself get wounded.  One bullet, a partner leaving me for another woman, I must not be enough; second bullet, I’ve been lied to, I must not be worthy of truth; third bullet, people keep taking care of me, I must not be able to take care of myself; forth bullet, a diagnosis, and now my body is not able to function as it used to, I must be unhealthy; and on and on…I felt the shots viscerally in the moment on that mesa top, hitting my limps but leaving me alive. I recalled all the wounds that shattered a believe about myself, and then I remember each period of recovery, never easy and always important.

At times like this, forgiveness is being called to be known.  And still, forgiving ourselves, in all truth, is not something that comes naturally.

On the mesa top, I watched my dog eye a rabbit it so deeply wished to chase.  Knowing herself well enough to know the rabbit is one of her only worthy opponents in a race, she eyed the rabbit’s movements, readying herself for the chase, and then darted toward it. But, she was still on leash. Her dart forward only abruptly bounced her backward. She tried again and again and continued to find herself unable to meet her deeply instinctual self.  In time, she gave in, knowing her boundary, she sat on my lap and watched the rabbit.  I thought of how my experiences have continually taught me my boundary, and the one this week, would be no different. I am being asked to sit with the truth of a new boundary.  In time, my dog chased that rabbit happily around the mesa top.   I am being darted backward before I can go forward to live my truth.

As my dog ran about, I held ceremony for myself, with the intention and question of how I can find self-forgiveness.  I cried in the naming and recognition of my loss of self.  And I lay on the earth fully with the grief.  Then in the knowing of this being another invitation, another Rite-of-Passage, I came to understand the work was to let go, yet again, of what I thought I was and find some way to step into who I am meant to be now, with this new turn of events. 


It was then that the gentle movement of desert shrub and juniper created by the wind. became louder than the bullets. I stood up, and felt that I needed to fall to my knees, however symbolic, it was fully a body urge.  Here I saw the long shadows of dusk from every juniper, rock, shrub and my very own body.  The shape of the shadows stretched long across the landscape to the mesa edge, as my knees grounded and sank more deeply into the sand-earth-dirt.  I grew fatigued.  My head dropped in this tireless tired. Only a moment later, my head jerked back up and there was a need to readjust my knees causing me to notice the other side: strong, permeating, bright and blinding; the sun.  Nothing else could be seen when facing that direction.  I stayed on my knees in this way for some time.

Big moments of realizing the death of some part of our ego, offer an occasion for passage, a time for marking the end and beginning of something.  There, in the challenging times that have us questioning, “who am I?”, we can step into the becoming more who we are meant to be, revealing our resilience, strength and courage.

For me, in this, may I find a way to better hold and know my own boundaries and may I honor them well with loyalty to myself; may I find a gentleness toward myself, continuing to learn and grow into myself through self-forgiveness; and rather than focusing solely on the shadows, may I find a way to always turn into the light.  And when I live these times, may I always have a dear friend and confidant to watch me move through this difficult landscape, someone I can come home and share my story with, in order to be seen and known into my new way of being.

Come find ways to truly step into your life, with nature as your ally, no matter what grief or transitional experience you may be facing, with Oaks Counsel.  In particular, you can check out our Healing Ground Grief Ceremony Day Quest in May!