Finding Solace in Nature: A Protestant/Secular Sensibility?

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Culture shapes experiences of bereavement; it also shapes perceptions of the natural world. Cemeteries, painting and poetry regularly use nature to offer solace for grief in historically Protestant and in secular cultures, but rarely in Catholic cultures. Why?
Drawing on Draper (1967) I argue that, from the 18c right through to the 21c, Protestants and secularists, being unable to pray for the deceased’s soul, shifted their attention to the mourner’s grief. Lacking Catholic rites for the dead, they turned elsewhere to express grief and find comfort. One place to which they turned was nature - variously portrayed as peaceful, beautiful, lonely, unable to feel, dead yet capable of living again (winter & summer), decomposing yet growing anew (autumn & spring), transient, eternal, enveloping (as in the Germanic/Nordic forest), or (in 21c ecology) suffering. Examples are given from a range of Western countries, chiefly from cemeteries but also from poetry and painting.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural, Existential and Phenomenological Dimensions of Grief Experience
EditorsAllan Køster, Esther Kofod
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003099420
ISBN (Print)9780367568115, 9780367568122
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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