PTSD and Grief – Healing Through Nature

File:Early Fall in Sierra Nevada Range, CA 9-16 (29957191822).jpg

Early Autumn in the Sierra Nevada, Author Don Graham of Redlands, CA (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

– John Muir

The respected naturalist and environmental philosopher, John Muir, believed that nature offers the body and mind opportunities to heal themselves [1].

Muir tirelessly hiked the Sierra Nevada, writing extensively about his experiences and ultimately co-founding America’s premier conservation organization, the Sierra Club.  His activism helped to preserve both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Mission Outdoors and Hometown Hero Outdoors are two small non-profits which share Muir’s view.

They afford military service members and veterans a temporary escape from the stress of combat or the difficulties of transitioning to civilian life through hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.  Hometown Hero Outdoors is open to law enforcement personnel, as well.


Many of these individuals suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder – an illness to which victims of childhood abuse and domestic abuse are, also, prone.

PTSD may occur to those who either witness or undergo a traumatic event such as warfare, terrorism, natural disaster, serious accident, or rape; or who are threatened with sexual violence, severe injury, or death [2A].

The symptoms of PTSD typically include intrusive thoughts, memories, and feelings; flashbacks during which patients re-experience the traumatic event; and/or distressing dreams [2B].

These can result in irritability, anxiety, depression, paranoia, social isolation, poor immune function, and increased risk of heart disease [3A].  They can lead to domestic violence and suicide [3B].


Pres. Theodore Roosevelt is known to have abandoned public life and sought consolation on the Western frontier, after the simultaneous deaths of his wife and mother [4].

The adventure restored him.  Roosevelt went on to establish five national parks, 52 national bird sanctuaries, and 150 national forests on 230 million acres of government land [5].

Scientific Evidence

Research is gradually confirming that the awe we feel in nature can provide significant relief to PTSD sufferers and those grieving profound personal loss [3C].

A study reported in the psychological journal Emotion was conducted on veterans and at-risk teens during and after water rafting.  Participants reported a 29% reduction in PTSD symptoms, and a 21% percent decrease in general stress.

God in Nature

Of course, God can be found in nature, as well.  He is the Great Physician.  Nature reflects His majesty and power.  It reminds us of His faithfulness.

Christ, Himself, often withdrew to the wilderness to pray (Luke 5: 16).

Connecting with God

Here are a few practical suggestions for connecting with God through nature [6]:

A.  Experience God in Nature

  • Watch a sunrise or sunset.
  • Visit a local park, beach, or lake especially when there are no crowds.  Visit the woods or mountains, if you can.

B.  Explore God’s Relationship to Nature

  • Read about nature in the Bible.
  • Find the spiritual lessons gardening has to offer.
  • Find the spiritual lessons watching birds and other animals has to offer.

C. Dialog with God in Nature

  • Sit quietly on the porch or in the garden, and focus on the sounds of the natural world.  You may hear the voice of God, deep within your spirit.
  • Temporarily turn off your smartphone and similar electronic devices.  Then take a walk outside as you talk with God.  Unburden your heart.  He is always willing to listen.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land” (Ps. 95: 4-5).

[1]  Wikipedia, John Muir,

[2A and 2B]  American Psychiatric Association, “What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?”,

[3A, 3B, and 3C]  UC Berkeley, “Nature is proving to be awesome medicine for PTSD” by Yasmin Anwar, 7/21/8,

[4]  History, This Day in History – February 14, 1884, “Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die”, 11/16/09 (updated 5/6/22),

[5]  US Dept. of the Interior, “The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt”, 2/14/20,

[6]  Happy, Healthy and Prosperous, “Connect with God through Nature” by Tracy Robbins, 8/16/16,




Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

18 responses to “PTSD and Grief – Healing Through Nature

  1. This is a beautiful post, Anna. I agree with you 100%. Being in nature helps restore our equilibrium like few other things do. It has an amazing calming, healing and restorative affect. Perhaps the order of the verses in Psalm 23 isn’t accidental: “He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.”

  2. Pingback: PTSD and Grief – Healing Through Nature — ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse – A Blog About Healing From PTSD

  3. Sitting on a quiet beach listening to the oceans waves and the squawk of seagulls or by a bubbling brook with the fresh aroma of trees and nature will sink deeper within me to bring peace and calm than just about anything else. Thanks for the reminder and now I need to head for a beach. 🙂

  4. Great article! I practice a number of these things myself to bring personal balance, even though I don’t suffer from PSTD. Thanks for sharing.

  5. After the death of my son, I was blessed with several trips to Pacific coastal areas near L.A. Walking the beaches and hiking in the mountains was therapeutic and the beginning of some healing for me. Great thoughts and wisdom in this post. Thanks, Anna.

  6. Pingback: PTSD and Grief : Healing Through Nature – NarrowPathMinistries

  7. Thanks for this post on PTSD

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