Ava Marie LaMonica
Depression? Anxiety? Grief? Spirituality and Nature Might Be Your Antidote
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
On February 21st, 2020, my cat of ten and a half years old suddenly passed away.
It was shattering.
People don’t always think much about the loss of an animal and I admit my grief may seem pitiful to someone who has experienced the death of a close family member…but I consider our four-legged furry friends family, and she was family…the little sister I never had.
As a sufferer of OCD, anxiety, and depression, I knew that the heartache of death would be unbearable.
Death and the big “what if” were always one of my biggest, underlying fears and obsessions.
This was one of my first experiences dealing with it firsthand.
Unbearable was far from an understatement. My feline sister (Rifka) was an angel to me. We called her my “therapy cat” because of her clinginess to me and her sweet, cheery, yet mellow disposition.
I was and am devastated.
After Rifka’s death, those overwhelming obsessions and fears I had of death came back to me in full force. I have always considered myself to be a spiritual person, but the pain and loneliness of my cat’s absence made me need answers. As crazy as it sounds, I habitually researched life after death theories, near-death experiences, the specific nuisances of Lutheranism, etc. I spent hours reading into the deepest, depths on these topics (that’s OCD for you).
Some things I read helped me and ultimately played a huge role in me regaining more faith and coping with her loss. While other things made me more confused, upset, and angry. After a while, I realized all the research was becoming counterintuitive and only contributing to my obsessive thoughts. As the days passed, I was slowly able to look things up less and less.
While coping with her death there was something I noticed…something I’ve done numerous times but never thought that much into.
At the deepest, darkest ditches of my mental illness or the times when I’m situationally destroyed and completely at rock bottom, I throw on my most disheveled clothing, plug in my archaic, knotty, Apple wired headphones to a song that I feel deeply in my soul for that particular moment (Lately it’s been a toss between Fleetwood Mac and the Godspell Motion Picture Soundtrack), and I walk through the neighborhood, blocking out everyone and everything around me. During and after my walk, I feel significantly better and more hopeful.
The days following Rifka’s loss, I did the same.
But this time it was a little different.
Due to all the obsessive research and the indescribable heartache of Rifka’s death, I ultimately realized that death made me so much more conscious of life.
I purposely admired every inch of nature around me.
The bright sunny sky colored in the perfect shade of blue.
The rustling trees blowing calmly in the wind, providing the perfect amount of oxygen for every living being.
The birds chirping and soaring above us.
I began taking notice of nature wherever I went, while walking to my car in the morning, walking around my college campus, or walking around the local little beach I admire.
I realized that in those deep, dark moments of my life where I feel as if I have no escape or nothing to turn to, I turn to the precious life around me.
Many people believe that to be spiritual you must be religious. Although I personally believe in the Lutheran faith, the spiritual component is the biggest most present thing in my heart and I do not believe that you need a religion to have faith.
Having this deeper sense of faith and becoming aware of how beneficial it was to me allowed me to see things from a different perspective.
In no way am I trying to be one of those people who believes that simply having faith and praying to God will be the magic answer to all your issues. Unfortunately, many people do press this mindset on others and although it usually stems from good intentions, things, unfortunately, aren’t that simple.
It’s important to seek help in many other ways, especially therapy. I also acknowledge that spirituality may not be for everyone, but I do think it’s something that’s often brushed off, overlooked, and misconceived.
After losing a pet so close to me, I realized that the big things in my life, which I deemed so crucial, we’re not the least bit worth stressing over.
Life was. Her life.
Despite the sorrows and heartaches that consume us and planet Earth, the world is truly a magnificent, ethereal place that we so often take for granted being caught up in our own trivial problems.
That being said, I have faith in my heart that with the energy of all the life around us and the unique souls inside each and every one of us, nothing ever truly goes away. We continue far after death in another realm.
In a world of practicality, life and death are treated as black and white. You live, you die. You’re “in a better place” as everyone would say, but those are just comforting words that many people don’t truly mean or understand.
People claim that “proof” gives us all of life’s answers, but not a single soul can give proof of the deepest and most real questions regarding our existence.
If you become in touch with God, spirituality, or simply just take in the creations of the beauty and life around us, you may look at things in a way you’ve never imagined you ever would, and in turn, you may gain a fresh, new perspective:
That life is precious, present, and short.