Finding Answers in the Redwoods: A Perspective on Grief

Lately, I have been praying a great deal about what I should be writing about. I know I haven’t been corresponding to you all as frequently as I should. Maybe you haven’t even missed it. I guess I worry about that too much. If there is an audience. That they dwindle or are bored of my words. Which is why the book I was writing has sat untouched for months. And the end of the year, which was my deadline to finish, is far gone.

As with anything more significant in my life, like a calling, writing is one of those things. I can’t ignore its pull. There is a voice that keeps telling me I am supposed to write. And the prayers I pray asking what I should write about; the answer keeps being whispered back to me. I am supposed to write about death.

Talk about a topic that no one wants to hear about. The topic probably stops me from writing sometimes too. It can be too much. In Western Culture, we avoid death. The bad news is it can’t be avoided forever. Some people have less loss in their lives, while others are bombarded with loss. But the one thing we all have in common is that it will happen to everyone at some point.

We also push past grief or side step it if we can. Rush it; try to ignore it. Maybe it is because we think we can outwit it; hide it; escape it. None of those things seem to be true, at least not long term or without significant side effects.

It can be an awkward topic even if you do want to approach it or understand it.

It never occurred to me that it would become such a center point of my existence. I guess I started out like most people do, trying to deny it.

Day in and day out, I work to breathe life into death. It is always my goal as a faith-based spiritual medium to do God’s work and light the way into the darkest corners of our grief and loss so that hope can grow there. But it doesn’t change the fact that our lives continue to be wrapped in it.

One thing is certain, grief doesn’t end. Just like love never dies; grief never ceases. We miss our loved ones and long for them our entire lives.

I think it was Anne Lamott that said, “But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life?” Isn’t that the truth? We never get over the biggest losses in our lives. They shape us, move with us, are in us.

Grief does evolve; I think that might be true.

Last fall I got to spend some days among the Redwood Trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains and they reminded me of grief. They reminded me of us.

Redwood Trees are giant, long-living creatures that tower over everything in a forest, and they force you to take them in. They are hard to ignore. From their strong aroma to their massive size, to the needles and cones that fall from them, you are forced to recognize them, just like grief.

Redwood Trees are also mostly fire-resistant. Did you know that? I didn’t before that visit. Of course, repeated fires can cause damage and create hallows called “goose-pens” that are found around the base. Grief definitely damages us, but we survive, whether we want to or not, and continue to grow around the pain even though the marks of it remain on our surface or maybe even at the root of us for the rest of our lives. Grief goose pens, if you will.

Grief like a Redwood is majestic in its own right because grief is love. Did you know that the germination of Redwood Trees from their seeds isn’t very high? The fastest way to grow a new Redwood Tree is from a stump sprout. Because their root systems are so strong these stump sprouts have a better chance of success because they can easily connect to that strong underground root system. That underground root system is like love. So even though grief looms in our life, seemly crippling us, new roots will shoot up all over and force us to keep moving on, changing our emotions. That is love at work. Love for our heavenly loved one, love for those here that keep us going. Giving hope to new moments in our life. Allowing us to honor and promote our deceased loved ones in the new ways we begin to show up in our changed lives. It is because of them we can grow.

Sometimes grief can wrap us in a fog so dense it is seemly endless. Lonely. But what we often don’t know until this fog of grief has lifted, even if temporarily, is that the harder moments prepare us for the beautiful moments where the most radiant amounts of joy find us. And these intertwined grief-stricken and joy-filled moments create their own forest of memories. Memories that sustain us in the physical world where we breathe life into our loved ones. We carry them with us wherever they go, and so they go on. Grief isn’t just pain, it is a legacy of love that will last for hundreds of years. Just like a Redwood Tree.

Redwood Trees have shallow root systems and these roots can grow to be hundreds of feet long and even intertwine with the trees around them. Just like us. We may not be able to see those surface connections in grief, but we become intertwined with those around us who are also experiencing that loss and pain and we stand along side those that witness our losses and stay connected to them forever.

Redwood Trees do die and they can tumble to the ground. When a Redwood Tree falls it can take other trees with it. Some have described the grunts, cracks, crashes and groans of a Redwood Tree falling as a symphony. What happens when a Redwood Tree falls is that it begins to allow for extra light to reach the forest floor. New trees can begin to grow from the fertilizer that becomes of the decomposing tree. Animals can find homes in the newly fallen tree. The tree may no longer be standing and “breathing” among its peers, but it still provides nourishment and opportunity to the forest it belonged to. Just like us. We will see the dead tree, our lost person, everywhere we step for almost all of our days, but that loss allows us to incorporate that person’s beliefs into our lives or creates a new perspective for us so that we can shine light on others to help them grow and flourish in ways we may not have understood before.

We share stories of our lost loved ones with our friends and family, and they share those stories. Our loved ones in heaven are given new life as they travel through these memories and continue to become a part of new experiences.

We will never stop missing them, but we will go on. We will hurt, but we will grow. And they will live on in us, our stories, and by how we remember them in our actions.

Death is scary. Loss is awful. But lives are beautiful. Legacies are legendary. We can breathe life into the spaces and hollows that grief leaves and learn to live with our losses in a way that can make life sweeter and more full.

I guess, I have to keep writing and talking about death. Life after death both on Earth and in Heaven. I pray it lifts someone up in their pain. I pray they feel heard and loved through their deepest moments of sorrow. I hope that what I do, what I write about makes someone feel a little less lonely. That they maybe can see through the fog of grief for a moment. That they know it will never be the same again, but it isn’t the end either. There are beginnings to still be had. Miracles to see and find. Life continues and death is inevitable. But there is something beyond this place and our souls continue to stay connected to one another. Just like the magic and mystery of a Redwood Forest there is something deeper and indescribable about how life and death intertwine.

Until next time,

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