When grief strikes we tend to deal with it in different ways. Our coping mechanisms kick in and we might become overwhelmingly active, or the complete opposite, choosing to withdraw from the world for a while. Taking things in a ‘business as usual’ way is another method, longing for everything to be normal in a period that can seem entirely the opposite.
It’s the latter path that I have found myself heading down, having experienced the death of my wonderful grandmother this weekend, followed soon after by the news that my aunt had also died. Keeping going, whilst reflecting on the happy times in the past seems to work for me.
It’s rather strange, but as final as death seems, I find that it somehow makes you value life even more. In the glorious month of May the countryside (and our gardens) are awash with life. This afternoon I was strimming weeds around the apple trees in the orchard on the farm, and I took a moment to relish the sheer joy of being there at that particular moment. In the foreground: apple blossom, a blackbird hopping about and sporadic sprigs of cow parsley. The background of the scene consisted of the perpendicular fieldscape stretching down towards a big Essex sky and shimmering water on the Walton Backwaters. It’s this kind of experience that granny encouraged me to appreciate, if not knowingly on my part at the time. I have many happy memories of spending time with her, in my grandparents’ garden, watching birds or listening to her explain about the various garden flowers to me and my sister (I must admit that at that age I didn’t care too much for flowers), walking home from school, cooking (lots of cakes!), trips out to Banham Zoo, the Broads and holidays in Devon. She provided a security from which I could explore the world. In later years she contracted Alzheimer’s and experienced a very different life, but she was still the same calm, kind person that she always had been. All the happy memories remain in my mind, having wormed their way in, never to escape, but instead have shaped my way of thinking and even the way I construct stories and write about the natural world. Without doubt, granny had an enormous influence on me.
By grounding ourselves in the earth and nature solace can be sought and comfort found in difficult times. The simple act of potting up vegetables or taking some time to reflect in the outdoors can make all the difference. It can’t be quantified, and we all experience things in different ways, but in getting down to earth we can begin to understand things in our own way, get through things in a manner that works for us, and move forward positively, remembering the best of a person and plan for a future that would make them proud.