We Girl Campers are a wonderfully-made, eclectic group of women, and we wear multiple hats. Most of us are many things to many people, and it’s far too easy for us to forget to practice self-care. This is never truer than during and after the loss of a significant person in our lives.
What happens to my body while I’m grieving?
Studies have shown that immediately following the death of a loved one, our heart attack risk is much higher than normal. This is due in part to the release of the stress hormone, Cortisol, which can raise blood pressure, cause inflammation, and increase the risk of heart disease. We may also experience lowered immunity, sleep issues, fatigue, anxiety, aches and pains and depression. In my case, I found it impossible to eat anything for almost two weeks (in addition to all of the above phenomenon), proving that digestion issues and subsequent nutritional deficiencies are also concerning side effects of grief.
Will I ever feel better?
When submerged in the depths of grief, the never-ending sense of pain and hopelessness can be overwhelming. Words of “wisdom” from well-meaning friends and family members are often taken out of context or found to be less than helpful. Fortunately, there are many resources available when we feel that the pain is just too much to bear on our own, and one of the very best resources of all is just beyond our front doors – nature.
How can spending time in nature help me heal?
Nature soothes. Studies have shown that even spending 120 minutes a week in nature can restore a sense of calm and balance, helps us to feel connected to each other (and the larger world), and increases our ability to focus.
Nature is healing – there’s simply no way to argue this fact. When one feels safe, spending time in nature reduces feelings of anger, fear and stress. It reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of Cortisol. It reduces nervous system arousal, increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety, and enhances immune system functionality – possibly even reducing the risk of our own mortality.
During my own grief journey, I have found that simply being outdoors – taking a walk, sitting on the beach or having a picnic at the park with friends has slowly helped me to re-center my thoughts. Spending a few days camping with my husband or my fellow Girl Campers has helped me realize that I am not alone, and that my pain and sorrow are valid. Most importantly, it has helped me to truly see that life goes on. It may be different (and it won’t always be easy), but it WILL go on, and it will be meaningful.
Perhaps we Girl Campers have known the secret to physical and emotional healing all along.
Written by: Teresa White Carver, Girl Camper Guide to Virginia
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