Sneyd, M. (2021). The experience of being with grief in nature: A heuristic Inquiry [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Middlesex University.

This study aimed to explore and unravel the experience of spending time in nature after a close bereavement through utilising the qualitative, transpersonal methodology, Heuristic Inquiry. Motivated by my own compelling and powerful experiences of being with grief in nature (BGN) I surveyed the literature and found no academic studies on this topic, though first-person accounts of the experience emerge regularly in memoirs. Eight co-researchers from the UK, with diverse worldviews regarding consciousness in the natural world and after death, were invited to share their experiences of BGN through semi-structured interviews, creative expression, and ongoing personal inquiry. The results indicate that BGN facilitates insights and states of being that are beneficial in times of grief, such as connecting to the transpersonal through nature, inquiry and wonder, appreciation of beauty, presence, and acceptance. BGN also facilitated meaning-making from the loss and a continuation of bonds with the deceased, which according to current literature encourage adaptive outcomes (Neimeyer et al., 2010; Klass et al., 1996;). However, darker aspects of the topic were also illuminated where the energetic quality of certain landscapes, weather, and the loss of biodiversity in the natural world occasionally resulted in a deepened sense of loss. Through the analytic lens of eco-orientated participatory theory, I conclude that due to the emotional openness and vulnerability occurring through the grief process, BGN enables a more intense sensory and participatory experience in nature. Implications are that BGN should be considered as an approach to grieving that can benefit the individual as well as deepen human-earth relations, justifying further research into the topic including exploration of sensitively held therapeutic applications.

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