Where I live, in a beautiful village called Marsden in West Yorkshire, UK, there has recently been a wildfire that has devastated a large area of the moorland..
I became aware that the people who live here, including myself, and those that care deeply about these moors, the habitat, wildlife and environmental importance of this special place were experiencing this terrible event much like the illness and death of a loved one.
In fact, just for a moment, visualise these moors AS a loved one.
Very much loved, cared for and a huge part of everything we hold dear living here.
There was the initial shock, with anger (and lots of it), denial, fear, frustration, bargaining and the feelings of helplessness alongside people rallying together each finding a way they could help.
You see, people like to help in times of crisis.
Not only asking how they could help but also taking some initiative after assessing where best their assistance might be needed whilst also not getting in the way of the important work required at the front.
Seeing the professionals come in and caring for our loved one and hoping that they can ease the suffering.
There were concerns for the courageous people dealing first-hand with the event.
There was also the anticipatory grief. When it started, although the area started off small, it was clear that it was going to be significant, widespread and catastrophic due to the conditions.
Knowing what’s coming and being helpless to stop it.
There were tears – lots of tears.
Not just for the physical deaths occurring (in terms of wildlife) but also for all the deaths associated with such a big event.
We were, in effect, all sitting vigil to that loss of life.
People know that, in time, the area will see recovery but they also know it will not be the same.
They will try to make sense of it all. The life destroyed can’t be replaced with like for like. A death is a death – unique in it’s own right.
And although the people of Marsden have experienced an event like this before it doesn’t get any easier with subsequent similar events.
In time, there will be acceptance. The high emotion will dissipate and the life of the villagers will resume as it was yet what they experienced with their senses will remain in their memory.
In the next few days or weeks when the area is safe to return to I plan to head up onto the moors to hold a small ritual. I don’t know what that will look like right now but it will be one of collective grief, a silent sorrow alongside the gratefulness for all that mother nature provides. Rituals are helpful for processing events, remembering and holding a compassionate presence for those that have died. Perhaps there will be evidence of regrowth and rebirth to celebrate too.
I hope it has provided some reflection on how we grieve and experience death in many ways, how everything is all connected and, perhaps, validated some of emotions that you have felt during your own life events..
Photo is of the Wessenden valley and moors of Marsden in more lush days.