Loss, Grief, and the Forest
This post is deeply personal and I've hesitated to even write it, let alone publish it publicly. Yet writing has become a way of processing for me. Of making meaning of my experiences. And also sharing those experiences with others. A vulnerability I've come to realize carries great significance.
Just a few hours ago I got home from the clinic where I received an ultrasound. You see, I had one about six weeks ago too. That was the first and it was the day I got to see the heartbeat. It was an incredible moment I will never forget.
This one I had today... well, it was to check that everything was gone. A necessary procedure to ensure my body has been able to deal with the loss on its own and that no further interventions are required.
I have dedicated my life to working with children since I was just barely no longer a child myself. Children carry a spark - of imagination, wonder, creativity, honesty - these are qualities I have always found utterly inspiring. And I always pictured myself becoming a parent to children some day, whenever the time was right.
But I don't think anything could have truly prepared me for what I would experience when that time rolled around. That time that I thought was "right."
Though Forest Schooled began as a blog documenting what I was learning as I trial and errored my way through outdoor pedagogical approaches to working with (mostly) kids outdoors, it has really become a public diary of sorts. And as I've moved from place to place and my learning has deepened, so have my posts. Each one digging a little bit further to try to understand what it means to be a human living in this world today. A world we share with so many others, including the more-than-human.
Probably the biggest lesson I've learned through it all is why I have followed this path. It's been an intuitive one for me, a test in listening to what innately calls to me even if I'm not sure why at the time. And the biggest gift of it all has been the chance to get out of my head and into my body. To be immersed outdoors, with children, and in an environment I have little control over (will it rain? or snow? will we find a snail? or a bone? or a dragon's den?)... there's no choice but to let go of the plans in my head and respond to the "what's happening right now."
This requires a tuning in to my body and my senses, which are constantly interacting with the physical world around me. That's something I know my ancestors must have been very good at. They had to be for survival... so it's what our human bodies are made to do, even though that connection has been lost for many of us over time.
And our bodies are also made to create life. Described as a miracle by many. Somehow the body knows just what to do every step of the way. And pregnancy, though short-lived, became another opportunity for me to deepen my connection with my own body. And listen.
The cravings were particularly strong, and incredibly accurate. When I needed more iron as blood was being pumped to the newly forming life I craved steak and beetroot. To increase folate, all I wanted in the world was a glass of orange juice. These were things that were not normally part of my regular diet, yet my body knew I needed them. It also knew I needed almost daily naps around noon... something I had to change my schedule around to accommodate for.
I made it to just before twelve weeks. Then sudden cramps, and bleeding... and two days spent in the ER to let go of all of what I had been creating inside me. It was painful, both physically and emotionally, and something I couldn't have fully comprehended without experiencing it. We'd never got the chance to meet outside of my own body, but it felt like a death. And the emotions associated with loss and grief came with it.
Somehow this all coincided with the week I was due to move house. And with the incredible help of friends who took over the heavy lifting I could no longer do while I was recovering, we managed to keep on schedule. I moved from a suburban area filled with construction sites, traffic, and buildings, to a more rural place surrounded by birdsong and trees.
I had already been looking forward to moving out of the city, but I didn't realize how crucial it would be to me for healing.
That first night, instead of looking out the window at the wall of the neighbouring house, I had a view of the forest instead. I saw maple, beech, and hemlock. And then a flash of light. And another. And another.... fireflies. I felt my body ease, the tension I'd been storing from all I'd been through starting to release...
Many people speak of the power of Nature for human wellbeing. Over the years science and research has begun to catch up with what Indigenous people have always known - that we depend on the natural world. It provides us with food, water, medicine, and so much more.
This connection is stronger for me now, more than ever, as I gain a little more clarity on what it means to be a human. And I'm writing all this down, here, publicly, because I know there are so many out there who have experienced something similar. And I feel it deserves honouring, not hiding.
With life there is also death. That is the cycle. To move through it I am making space for loss, for grief... and for healing with the forest.
Caylin (Forest Schooled)