Using Nature Photography to Deal With Grief

One day about a year after my husband’s death, I was sitting by a river watching my son play with his cousins. I glanced down and saw a red leaf lying on the stones. Radiant it lay dying against the sharp angles of the stones. I couldn’t take my eyes from it. Somehow it spoke to emotions that were buried deep within my soul. Using my compact, digital camera, I took a photo that became the first in a long series of nature photos that helped me deal with my grief.

Once or twice a month I was able to take time to be in nature and notice images that somehow spoke to the varying emotions I was experiencing in my grief. Much of regular photography is quick. It’s about getting the great shot at the right moment. Using photography to help deal with grief is a slow process. It includes notice the details of the image you see and taking the time to really notice what is happening within you as you view the image. Notice the emotions that are being stirred. This noticing will help be an intuitive guide to focus and frame as you make your photo.

These little trips into nature to take the photos were a healing and calming time in and of themselves. But the real benefit came with having the photos to use on a daily basis in the ups and downs of the journey. The photo-taking resulted in file upon files of photos on my computer. During the days and weeks that I could not get outside, I would scroll through the photos to find an image that touched the emotions I was experiencing on a particular day. When I found a photo that I wanted to spend time reflecting on, I would upload it into my digital scrapbook software. (I like to use My Memories Suite for ease of use, no need to be online, and allowing printing from your home printer.)

Once I had the photo uploaded I would journal about my reflection with three simple questions:

1) What do I see? (details of light, colors, objects)
2) What do I feel? (emotions that are stirred as I reflect on the image)
3) What do I receive or learn? (analysis and interpretation of my interaction and response to the image)

Time and again I was surprised to find how calmed and centered I would become as I went through this three-step process. No matter how many emotions ranged within before I started the process, I always seemed to find my way to a much better place by taking 10 to 15 minutes to journal my reflection with a photo from nature.