Beyond Our Front Doors

Following the death of my eighteen-year-old daughter Jeannine in March of 2003, I embraced non-ordinary phenomena to help me develop new insights. One of the things that became clear to me was that we do survive death; that our deceased loved ones communicate their ongoing existence to us. My willingness to understand the significance of signs and their underlying connections, have allowed me to develop clarity and find my peace with Jeannine’s death.  There are many individuals who don’t believe in signs or for whatever reason have not received them. However there are different ways to walk the path of transformation following our loved ones death; there are different ways to develop clarity after catastrophic loss.  One of those ways requires no more effort than walking out our front doors. 

A Living Breathing Force 

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread

places to play in……

where nature may heal and cheer

 and give strength to body and soul. 

John Muir 

Retrieved from : 

In the latter part of my journey as a parent who experienced the death of a child, I have learned to appreciate the teachings that our outside world reveals to us. I don’t spend the majority of my time outdoors, but when I do, I vow to pay attention to what is going on around me. The direction that the wind blows, a particular animal that crosses my path; cloud formations ,are aspects of nature that have moved me and contain rich teachings that have allowed me to develop additional clarity. We are all capable of observing what is going on around us and utilizing the teachings to embrace a higher level of thought. All that is required is for us to look at our relationship with nature differently. We need to collaborate with nature to benefit from the teachings that will ultimately be revealed to us. We need to see nature as a living breathing force, with a spirit all its own.

Embraced By Nature

Bald Mountain-2013

In November of last year, I hiked my first mountain and to date, only mountain in my life. It was also the first introduction that I received to the teaching power of nature. Here is a picture of what I saw when I reached the summit, and my unfiltered impressions of what I saw. It was empowering as well as powerful. The full article on my experience can be found at:

When I looked at this picture, I noticed the tree with its branches outstretched as if to welcome me home.  Native Americans believe that there is spirit in all of nature. For me, that tree symbolized the spirit of not only my daughter Jeannine but also every parent whose story of their deceased child touched my heart and my soul. That tree and all of nature also embodies the spirit of all of our ancestors who have died before us. They continue to live in pure, unadulterated form.

The summit and nature is our true home, it is there that we can be one with the universe, for however long we choose. When we become one with nature, we become one with ourselves.  We become whole in a redefined way, our children physically absent, but spiritually alive. They live through us; within us and they guide us throughout the redefining journey that we will travel for the remainder of our lives. 

Maximizing The Power of Nature

In closing, I want to leave you with five suggestions for best utilizing nature as a teacher during your grief journey or other times of transition:

  • Before engaging with nature, clear your mind of any thoughts that may interfere with that process. Brief meditation or other forms of healthy stress management can help.
  • While walking or otherwise observing nature look all around you as well as up above. Remember, we can discover teachings anywhere in nature…if we look.
  • Write about what you see, either while outside or shortly after you get home. To make your writing more meaningful, you may want to take a picture or pictures of the scene from nature that impacted you. Look at that picture while you write.
  • Use a format that will help you develop the most meaning. One that I use contains the following components: 1) Title of the scene, 2) Thoughts about what I saw (could also be simply a word or phrase) 3) Feelings about what I saw, 4) How what I saw and felt relates to what I am experiencing or challenges I am facing on my current life path.
  • Write what is coming through you at the moment, do not try to edit it or analyze it. Trust that your intuition will be your guide as you learn to utilize nature as a tool to achieve clarity and higher levels of thinking.


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David Roberts

David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology child-life departments at Utica University in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC. Dave has also been a past national workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends and a past national workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Dave also co-presented a workshop titled “Helping Faculty After Traumatic Loss” for the Parkland, Florida community in May of 2018,in the aftermath of the mass shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School. Dave was also a keynote speaker at The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Remembrance Weekend during in June of 2019 in Ponte Vedra, Florida .Dave has also done numerous workshops at the local and regional levels related to transformation from grief and loss. He is the co-author with Reverend Patty Furino of the recently published book "When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister" which is available for purchase on Amazon. For more information about their book,please go to: Dave has been a past HuffPost contributor and has also published articles with the Open to Hope Foundation, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal, Mindfulness and Grief, and Thrive Global. He is currently a regular contributor to Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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