A few days ago I was outside, enjoying myself raking leaves while listening to NPR’s environmental show, ‘Living on Earth.’

     I learn a lot from ‘Living on Earth.’  I hear hopeful reports about interesting projects to help heal the planet.  But of course the news is not always good. 

     As I raked, in the fragrant, dried leaf-scented air, I thought I heard suppressed tears in the voice of the scientist being interviewed.  Her barely contained pain caught my attention as she reported that deep sea coral, a few miles from BP’s downed oil rig, is dying.  I shared her grief as she explained that since the health of deep sea coral is necessary to the health of organisms at the top levels of the Gulf as well, the impact of the coral dying in the depths is widespread.  Further, deep sea coral is so slow-growing that recovery will likely take many decades.  Scientists plan tests to determine for certain whether the die-off was caused by the BP oil disaster, as they believe it was.  If they are right, then the damage caused by the BP disaster is greater than has yet been acknowledged.   

     As I listened to these horrifying facts, only the latest in a very long litany of assaults we humans are committing against our planet, I felt a scream well up inside me.  It spread through my being, and I pictured myself screaming and screaming, again and again and again, from an anguished, grief-stricken core.

     But I did not actually scream.  I was silent.  I knew screaming would only make me hoarse.  And embarrassed if anyone heard me.  So I did what I usually do.  I swallowed my grief.  I penned it inside, and I went about my business of raking as if nothing had happened.

     As I continued to rake, I reflected on my grief.  Does it make sense, I wondered, to just continue on with my life as if everything is basically okay, as if all is proceeding normally? 

     Grief, we are told, is a healthy response to loss.  Grief should by fully experienced, not suppressed.  But isn’t the destruction of the living planet of which we are a part, and on which we depend, as worthy of our grief as the loss of any beloved human?

     If I learned that a beloved person had died, I wouldn’t continue with my raking;  I would grieve without holding back.  Why don’t I also express my grief when my fellow species are carelessly murdered or maimed?  Maybe grief over the extinctions of species and the destruction of large swaths of habitat is not ‘socially acceptable.’  Or maybe we lack meaningful rituals to help us express our grief over the dying of the natural world. 

     Perhaps we need to develop such rituals.  If we had them, I think we could live more authentic lives.  Honoring and expressing our grief might make us emotionally stronger, more able to do the very hard work that must be done if we are to save our planet for future generations.

     I think we ignore our grief at a cost.  Psychologists believe that burying deep feelings and failing to face them saps our energy and perhaps even diminishes our health.  To act as if all is well, while our planet is dying around us seems an example of schizophrenia to me. 

     And I wonder about those who do not feel grief about the dying of the natural world.  Isn’t it a kind of deep denial to experience no pain over the accelerating rate of species extinctions, for example?  And what about people who are actively hostile to others who care about the environment?  Are such people not also denying their own connection with, and dependence on, the natural world? 

     What kind of price are these people paying for their denial?

     I am looking for ways to express my grief.  For the time being, I think I will follow my friend Louise’s advice, and at least bow to my grief.  I will honor my grief, even if I don’t know the rituals for expressing it.–April Moore 


Scientists see dramatic damage to deep sea coral near the downed BP oil rig

Scientists see dramatic damage to deep sea coral near the downed BP oil rig




6 Responses to “Grief”

  1. Joan Brundage Says:

    I, too, share your grief. This seems to be an ongoing grief with me. I’ll never forget walking in the desert with my dog, over land which had been previously verdant but was now bulldozed. My dog refused to walk on the raped land—she walked around it in the living desert. Here in Arizona, it is with grief that I see previously living unbuilt-upon desert crowded with houses. The desert is vanishing. To deny one’s grief is to deny and ignore one’s connection to planet earth. We are one—earth, body and soul and the destruction of the planet is the destruction of our very souls. Unfortunately, too many people are too numb and unconnected to earth to even realize this.

  2. Todd Says:

    Hi April, I share your grief. The situation is appalling, and there are elected officials right down the road here who don’t understand, don’t believe it, and only want to make things worse! I grieve, I rage, and feel guilty that I am not doing more – yet.

    Namaste, Todd PS: And Autumn is nevertheless still beautiful.

  3. Jean Oswald Says:

    I wish I could have raked leaves with you this week; I appreciate your sensitive heart April! Lately I am thinking about Mother Earth ascending Herself. The earthquakes, floods, etc. are part of it. As more and more people wake up and move into Higher Consciousness, do you think we will be more in harmony with Her? That is my hope. I am also trying to express my love for the earth when I clean our highways, reduce, reuse and recycle my paper, plastics, and broken machines, carpet, etc. My 3 daughters have helped increase my awareness about things i can do; we stopped putting fertilizers on the lawn, etc.
    I believe there are many souls who Love and Appreciate our Mother Earth…… have you heard “Little Grandmother” speak? You would like her:
    I miss you and our long walks dear friend. And I love the way you honor the earth with your posts, your presence and your love!

  4. Elizabeth Cottrell Says:

    April, your expression of anguish and grief is so beautifully expressed, and you’ve touched on one of the reasons why I have included Connection with Nature among what I consider to be the four essential connections of our life ( When this connection is severed, there is no basis for consciously feeling loss or grief. Denial probably also plays a role too…or perhaps it’s even a self-protection mechanism to keep us from experiencing grief overload in a world in which there is so much to grieve.

    I’m fascinated with your suggestion that we might need rituals to help us deal with these feelings. Certainly debilitating grief is only destructive and not helpful. I hope you’ll explore this thinking and identify some rituals that might indeed strengthen our connection with our natural world and channel our grief into something positive.

    I look forward to this discussion continuing.

  5. Denise Says:

    I find the grief to be constantly present, but especially when it became clear that the Congress will not act on carbon emissions. I grieve for the people and species who are being affected, for future generations, but also for our country, which once led the world in environmental protection.

    I recommend Joanna Macy’s thoughts on how we voice our compassion.

  6. Judy Muller Says:

    Dear April …. I found this to be one of your most poignant, most deeply moving writings. You made me feel, down deep in my soul, the tragedy and urgency of our world environmental devastation. And then I went on to read the most anguished and thoughtful responses from your readers. You have expressed so clearly, in a way that people can feel and hear, what we need to know; I urge you to submit this piece for wider publication.

    I will see you very soon, Dear April.

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