Environmental Grief Processing

Grief processing is something that we are passionate about. We have suspected for a while that it is an important part of our Bush Inventors’ after-school Club. This year not only have children needed space to release emotions from a whole day of school but also from the stress they might be holding from COVID, world events and the tension felt in the adults around them.

This afternoon, at Bush Inventors’ Club in Crawley, we truly felt the grief as a group around environmental issues. The river had turned brown. Amongst bits of seaweed washed up, we found not only rubbish but dead fish and birds. We counted 7 dead fish and 4 dead birds, including a baby. 

The river was clearly sick. The children were attentive in a held space, learning about the functions of rain, pollution and sun on the river and its creatures. They offered solutions and gifts we could bring, including making rubbish collecting spears and working as a team to clear as much rubbish as possible.

“This is making me feel really sad and frustrated and actually quite a bit angry. Why do people just drop litter when there are rubbish bins so close?”

“Whoa, I never knew there was so much rubbish on the beach! Maybe it is because we are focusing on it now, where before it was right under our noses.”

The children commented as they collected rubbish how they felt better. They felt happier, as they could do something to help and could clearly see the difference they were making.

Two trash bags full of rubbish on the Crawley river foreshore

We celebrated their efforts but didn’t really need to. The act of doing, fixing and healing had an internal effect on them. 

This is grief processing at work. Space for sadness, frustration and anger to be shared, heard and acknowledged. Then, the space to move bodies and connect in a way to ‘the other’ that helps us and nature heal together.