Group walks through grief 

  • Sandra Morgan, who organizes a program called Hiking Through Grief based out of the Harris Center, scopes out trails for the group to hike in the future on Saturday, March 4. (Abby Kessler/ The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)  Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sandra Morgan, who organizes a program called Hiking Through Grief based out of the Harris Center, scopes out trails for the group to hike in the future. STAFF PHOTO BY Abby Kessler

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Marcia Kayser misses both big and small stuff about her husband. How they shared everything, even the chores, cooking and anything around the house.

“I grew a lot after we met. Doug was really good for me, we were good together,” said Kayser.

When Kayser’s husband of 36 years was killed in a car accident in northern New Hampshire, Kayser said everything seemed wrong for a long time.

“I’d never lived my life alone. I had always been a wife, an employee, a mother, and so many other things, and then I was just alone. All of a sudden I had to do it alone,” said Kayser, who was 20 when she got married and now lives in Keene.

Kayser had already gone through the pain of losing a young daughter, Amy, who also died of a head injury, and said she knew she would be able to endure her husband’s death, although this time was different becuase their other children were grown and her life was suddenly so quiet. 

“You don’t have energy or confidence, you just have to take that first step and then the next. Sometimes it’s more steps backwards than forwards,” Kayser said.

The routine of work gave pattern to her days.

One of the best things to do in those early days was to go out in nature and spend time in the woods.

“You can be so immersed in [nature], it’s a complete sensory experience and it keeps you in the present. You can learn a lot of new things without a lot of effort. It’s not like sitting in the classroom where you’re wondering, ‘can I do this?’ No, if you can lace up a pair of boots, you can do this.”

That’s the idea behind a new series called Hiking Through Grief, a program that is hosted at the Harris Center.

Sandra Morgan, who lives in Keene, started the group after years of mulling over the idea. Morgan said she volunteers with hospice and through the experience was exposed to grief groups, which ultimately gave her the confidence to launch the hiking series.

Morgan said that grief is commonly misunderstood, many looking at it as something to cure or treat.

“Grief isn’t an event but a process,” Morgan said. “You never get over grief you kind of carry it in different ways but it’s always there.”

She said the body can hold sadness and it can build up, much like a dam. Physically moving the body can help release build up.

Morgan said the group is open to all, adding that in some form or another everyone has gone, or is currently going through, grief. She said it can come in many different forms including leaving for college, beginning a new chapter in life, going through a divorce, or a change in a relationship.

“If we’re tuned into it, we’re healing from some sort of grief all of the time … Life can be very sad, and it’s unpleasant sometimes,” Kayser said about the presence of grief in people’s lives. “But if you lean into it and talk about it that’s all that you need to move on. If we stuff awful feelings up inside we wind up numb.”

Morgan said the hiking group is similar to others across the country, and based particularly off a group out of Boulder, Colorado. The series is not supposed to replace therapy or support groups but act as an addition to those resources for people who are grieving.

“It’s not therapy, but it’s therapeutic,” Morgan said of the hikes.

Morgan said when she pitched the idea to the Harris Center, they immediately jumped on board. She said they just seemed to understand the importance of the endeavor from the get-go.

“Hiking in the healing presence of nature provides a unique and meaningful way to work through grief,” Margaret Baker, communications specialist at the Harris Center, said in an email to the Ledger-Transcript. “This group offers a way to connect with others in a safe, supportive setting.”

The group has already gone on two hikes, the first on Jan. 28 and another on Feb. 25. There will be another on March 25. Originally planned as a three-part series Morgan said she plans to host the event once a month. Participants are asked to meet in the Harris Center parking lot.

Kayser said she doesn’t feel like she’s grieving for her husband anymore.

“No, I’m not grieving anymore. I feel sad sometimes, it comes and goes,” Kaiser said. “But it’s not grief.”

There are triggers, of course, that jog memories. Like ordering a No. 9 sub from D’Angelos, her husband’s favorite order. Sometimes, she said, she’ll cry over the loss, but she has learned that she can allow herself to do that because its only a few tears.

“There’s always something to be grateful about. Soon after my husband died I would look out the kitchen window and say, ‘OK, God what are we going to do with this one? How are we going to get through this?’” Kayser said.

Courage and resiliency was always the answer.

“You know that phrase, ‘everything happens for a reason?’” Kayser said. “I don’t buy that. I think we are gifted with grace and courage and resilience and we can handle whatever comes our way because of that.”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.