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Finding Connections — With Nature and Each Other — During a Pandemic

Posted by Washington Trails Association at Aug 21, 2020 01:40 PM |

Although in-person trips aren't possible right now, Wild Grief is finding a way to fulfil their mission.

By Andrew Pringle

Connecting with nature and each other is more important than ever in these challenging times, but the reality of the health crisis means many of us are having to find new and innovative ways of coming together while maintaining physical distance. The creativity of many of WTA’s community partners has inspired us and reminds us that connection is the most important part of this work. Guided by this value of connection to nature, one of our partners — Wild Grief — has been exploring how to bring together people and nature in this new reality.

Wild Grief’s programming is driven by three core beliefs in the healing power of nature, the importance of community and the need to acknowledge the impact of death in our lives. The Olympia-based nonprofit facilitates peer groups for children and adults who are grieving a death by creating the space for sharing, connection and healing.

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Wild Grief, which usually connects people on in-person wilderness outings, has shifted this year to adapt to the reality of COVID-19. Photo courtesy Wild Grief.

Like many local programs that use nature as a tool for positive youth development, Wild Grief’s big summer plans were upended by the COVID-19 health crisis. And while some programs have been able to resume backpacking outings for youth with extra precautions, the small size of the organization means it’ll have to wait until next summer to get back into the wilderness. But that hasn’t kept it from building community and supporting participants.

Wild Grief believes in the power of wilderness exploration to aid in the healing process, but until they can return to nights under the stars, they’re finding innovative ways to reach new people, create community and support each other through the process of grieving.

Wild Grief started facilitating monthly online hikes that begin with an opening circle via video call — similar to the opening circle on the group’s in-person hikes. Then everyone finds a safe place close by, to be in nature for 30–45 minutes. This could be a walk around the neighborhood, a sit spot in the yard, or even just opening a window to feel the fresh air and see the sky. After some quality time reflecting in nature, everyone reconvenes for a reflective closing circle.

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Photo courtesy Wild Grief.

This summer, Wild Grief is expanding online offerings for teens age 13–18 who have lost a loved one. Solo Together is a four-day online opportunity to explore the wild in your own neighborhood, engage in creative activities to help deal with loss, connect online with other grieving teens and receive support from skilled guides.

How you find nature and community during the pandemic might change, but we are committed to helping our community and our partners explore new ways to connect, explore and experience the benefits of time spent outdoors. And when we can all safely return to making new friends on outdoor adventures, WTA will be there to support schools and community organizations leading independent outings with skills training for group leaders, mini-grants to cover trip costs and free lending of clothing and equipment.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Support trails as a member WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.