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PTSD and Grief : Healing Through Nature

July 10, 2022

File:Early Fall in Sierra Nevada Range, CA 9-16 (29957191822).jpg

Early Autumn in the Sierra Nevada, Author Don Graham of Redlands, CA (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

– John Muir

The respected naturalist and environmental philosopher, John Muir, believed that nature offers the body and mind opportunities to heal themselves [1].

Muir tirelessly hiked the Sierra Nevada, writing extensively about his experiences and ultimately co-founding America’s premier conservation organization, the Sierra Club.  His activism helped to preserve both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Mission Outdoors https://missionoutdoors.org/ and Hometown Hero Outdoors https://hometownherooutdoors.org/ are two small non-profits which share Muir’s view.

They afford military service members and veterans a temporary escape from the stress of combat or the difficulties of transitioning to civilian life through hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.  Hometown Hero Outdoors is open to law enforcement personnel, as well.

PTSD

Many of these individuals suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder – an illness to which victims of childhood and/or domestic abuse are, also, prone.

PTSD may occur to those who either witness or undergo a traumatic event such as warfare, terrorism, natural disaster, serious accident, or rape; or who are threatened with sexual violence, severe injury, or death [2A].

The symptoms of PTSD typically include intrusive thoughts, memories, and feelings; flashbacks during which patients re-experience the traumatic event; and/or distressing dreams [2B].

These can result in irritability, anxiety, depression, paranoia, social isolation, poor immune function, and increased risk of heart disease [3A].  They can lead to domestic violence and suicide [3B].

Nature, Grief, and PTSD

Pres. Theodore Roosevelt is known to have abandoned public life and sought consolation on the Western frontier, after the simultaneous deaths of his wife and mother [4].

The adventure restored him.  Roosevelt went on to establish five national parks, 52 national bird sanctuaries, and 150 national forests on 230 million acres of government land [5].

Research is gradually confirming that the awe we feel in nature can provide significant relief to PTSD sufferers and those grieving profound personal loss [3C].

A study reported in the psychological journal Emotion was conducted on veterans and at-risk teens during and after water rafting.  Participants reported a 29% reduction in PTSD symptoms, and a 21% percent decrease in general stress.

God in Nature

Of course, God can be found in nature, as well.  He is the Great Physician.  Nature reflects His majesty and power.  It reminds us of His faithfulness.

Christ, Himself, often withdrew to the wilderness to pray (Luke 5: 16).

Connecting with God

Here are a few practical suggestions for connecting with God through nature [6]:

A.  Experience God in Nature

  • Watch a sunrise or sunset.
  • Visit a local park, beach, or lake especially when there are no crowds.  Visit the woods or mountains, if you can.

B.  Explore God’s Relationship to Nature

  • Read about nature in the Bible.
  • Find the spiritual lessons gardening has to offer.
  • Find the spiritual lessons watching birds and other animals has to offer.

C. Dialog with God in Nature

  • Sit quietly on the porch or in the garden, and focus on the sounds of the natural world.  You may hear the voice of God, deep within your spirit.
  • Temporarily turn off your smartphone and similar electronic devices.  Then take a walk outside as you talk with God.  Unburden your heart.  He is always willing to listen.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land” (Ps. 95: 4-5).


[1]  Wikipedia, John Muir, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Muir.

[2A and 2B]  American Psychiatric Association, “What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?”, https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd.

[3A, 3B, and 3C]  UC Berkeley, “Nature is proving to be awesome medicine for PTSD” by Yasmin Anwar, 7/21/8, https://news.berkeley.edu/2018/07/12/awe-nature-ptsd/.

[4]  History, This Day in History – February 14, 1884, “Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die”, 11/16/09 (updated 5/6/22), https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/theodore-roosevelts-wife-and-mother-die.

[5]  US Dept. of the Interior, “The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt”, 2/14/20, https://www.doi.gov/blog/conservation-legacy-theodore-roosevelt.

[6]  Happy, Healthy and Prosperous, “Connect with God through Nature” by Tracy Robbins, 8/16/16, https://www.happyhealthyandprosperous.com/connect-with-god-through-nature/.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

Author: Narrow Path Ministries

Non-denominational, Independent, Bible believing Church

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