Earthing Grief

Some readers may know that my husband is in the nursing home with dementia. Grief has been part of the process. Some people have told me that because I still have him, I should not grieve. Why not? He is no longer part of life at home and he was a huge part of life at home. Watching his inevitable decline daily is a fresh reminder of another kind of loss: I met this man late in life, and I am witnessing an intelligence that matches my own slowly disappear. Memory is such a huge part of intelligence. So, yes, I do grieve, even as I must get on with life. Yet even as I have grief, I also have joy that I still can receive hugs, hand holding, and the sweetest of smiles upon my arrival each visit. My heart has been doing a Round Robin Dance this past several months between joy, grief, and uncertainty. I have largely met the often confusing interplay of emotion with hard physical labor, but sometimes that is not enough.

Today I remembered a teaching from Medicine Chief Frank White Eagle. “Go barefoot on the Earth.” I had caught myself in one of those sudden choking moments of grief that wants to arise and erupt in tears, but I did not want to luxuriate in the processing of too much emotion. So I did what my body instinctively wanted to do. I inhaled sharply through my nose, and exhaled explosively through my mouth. I could feel the energy move out of my Core and outward and down through my feet and hands, but the energy got stuck in my feet because I had my shoes on. So I kicked off my shoes, pulled off my socks, and went outside with a prayer, “Verdant Mother, please accept this energy of grief for your own food. I have too much of it, and I cannot bear more of it just now.”

I walked around the property where Alan and I made our home for over twelve years. As Mother Earth accepted the energy of my grief, I was able again to recall with love the labor we put into our garden and our joy at the produce thereof. I remembered our efforts to paint oxidized aluminum siding, until we decided to finally purchase vinyl siding. I remembered our arguments over how to approach the doing of a thing with fondness. I recalled walking our new puppy Dolly whom we adopted the same year we married, 2011, and the same year our hidden valley got flooded from Hurricane Irene. If Alan and I have succeeded at anything together, it was surviving. I laugh at how we camped out in our new home with a camp stove on the kitchen table because we had no electric for two weeks.

The Peruvian Indians have a teaching about Sami and Hucha. Sami is light energy and Hucha is dense energy. The Quechua and other tribes descended of the Inca say that Hucha is food for the Earth. Walking barefoot on the Earth today allowed me to discharge the deep, dark energy of grief, and my prayer attuned me to the Verdant Mother so that She received energy that was too excessive for me to handle. I have met human beings who think they ought not to pass on their excessive emotions to Mother Earth as “We have contaminated Her too much already.” I say to you now, this is not the case at all. We are part of All That Is, which makes us part of Earth, too. Earth is our Home, and if we open our hearts, She is Mother. I trust these teachings of the Native American peoples from both Americas, and I have put these teachings to the test and found them to be true.

Earth has received my joy too, in its season, alongside a deep reverence. Earth provides me with all that I need for my life and to sustain my life. And when my life is over, this body will lay down and rejoin the chemical composition of the soil, while my spirit flies free with the winds. This idea is something that sustains me too, as I process the reality of my dear one in the nursing home. Together we practiced aspects of shamanism. I have received visits from his spirit journeying, even as his body lies far away. And I know that whatever form this grief takes in physical reality, that the reality of Spirit is far greater reaching outward and ascending.

Earth, or Midgard, is the place where the energy of spirit indwells physical form, and there is consequently much that we can strive for, attain, achieve, and learn. I hope to be speaking more about these topics soon, and I am slowly planning an online class on the Runes. Some readers may recall I spoke this intention a couple years ago, before Covid and the onslaught of my husband’s dementia. But I think events and responsibilities are finally slowing down, and stabilizing, and it is my hope to get back to my own plans shortly. If you are interested in an online class of the Runes, please email me at

Published by susanofthenorth

Susan Hintz Epstein is an author, Rune diviner, healer, non-academic scholar, and former Methodist Lay Speaker who was called by the Runes in 2013. The time since then has been a serpentine shedding of one skin for another, as Susan's spiritual practice with the Runes and the World Tree, Yggdrasil, deepened. Susan keeps company with the Norns and other like-minded women.

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