A memoir with a title inspired by Sharpham Meadow Natural Burial Ground is the subject of a book-publishing crowdfunding appeal.
The Green Hill
The book is called ‘The Green Hill’ – the family’s informal name for Felix’s resting place – and its publication by Unbound will depend on getting enough pledges.
Sophie says the natural burial ground has been a continuing source of comfort since Felix died of SUDEP – sudden unexpected death in epilepsy – in March 2017, aged 20.
“Being able to go somewhere as beautiful as Sharpham Meadow to remember Felix has really helped the grieving process,” she said. “The views down to the sea, and over to Dartmoor are so breathtaking, and the ceremonial building and fire pit have been created with such love and care, I feel it is a nurturing place for him to be.”
The memoir tells the story of Felix’s life and death through letters and first-person narrative.
The journey of grief
‘The Green Hill’ is a constant reference point which comes to symbolise the things that become important in the journey of grief: nature, beauty, a sense of place, the passing of the seasons, the earth and the fact that, ultimately, all we are is dust.
The power of nature
“Sophie’s writing so illustrates the power of nature to connect with us deeply and to support us through the most terrible of times,” said Katie Tokus, the communications officer of The Sharpham Trust, the charity that created and operates Sharpham Meadow.
“We know that many with loved-ones at Sharpham Meadow are held and comforted by the incredible landscape, the Ancestors’ Fire, the nature and the general feeling at the burial ground, and Sophie’s beautiful work articulates that perfectly,” she said.
Living in the landscape of sudden loss, navigating the weather and tides of grief
In 2017, Sophie Pierce’s life changed forever when her 20-year-old son Felix died suddenly and unexpectedly. Thrown into a new world of loss, she had to find a way to keep on living.
In a series of letters to her son – composed during walks and swims taken close to his grave on The Green Hill in Devon– Sophie learns how to live in the landscape of sudden loss, navigating the weather and tides of grief. In the surroundings of Dartmoor and the South Devon coast she finds ways to continue the bond with Felix, both in her mind and with physical activity; actively mourning, rather than grieving.
The book celebrates the natural landscape and the role it plays in our lives and relationships, as well as looking at how we think about our own mortality. The Green Hill, Felix’s burial place by the River Dart, comes to symbolise the issues that become important in the journey of grief: nature, beauty, a sense of place, the passing of the seasons, the earth and the fact that ultimately all we are is dust.
The story starts when Sophie is on her way to Leicester to see Felix perform in a play at university. When she arrives, he is not at their meeting place. It transpires that he is in fact lying dead in his room. Sophie later learns that he has died from SUDEP – sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. The devastating effect this has on Sophie’s life is explored in the book which tells her and Felix’s story through letters she writes to him after his death, and first-person narrative. There are two storylines, present and past, the present uncovering how she deals with this unimaginable blow, and the past incorporating memories of Felix’s life. Through these strands the reader builds up a picture of the relationship between mother and son, and what happens when this broken by death.
The book shows how Sophie finds ways to continue the bond and recreate her relationship with Felix, both in her mind and with physical activity: pen on paper, needle on the fabric of the clothes he wore, and swimming and walking. She learns to focus on the landscape around her, the plants and trees, the rivers of Dartmoor and the sea off the South Devon coast, to somehow ‘be’ with him again.
What does it mean to experience sudden loss? And how do we mourn?
Grief is a universal experience that has gained new and acute urgency in recent times, with the world thrown into uncertainty by a seemingly invincible virus and by climate change. Suddenly, we feel ill equipped for the future. The Green Hill is one woman’s story of finding a way out of trauma and loss.
An extract from The Green Hill
“It is a month since the day I discovered Felix had died. I wake before dawn and go down to the kitchen and sit with a cup of tea feeling utterly lost. Sort of blank. Not crying. Just sort of stunned. I decide to go and see him at the Green Hill, hoping to see the sun rise. But when I get there the whole place is shrouded in sea fog. I put my blanket down and lie there in the damp, looking at the grass on top of the grave glistening with dew drops. I listen to the sound of raucous birds. There are three crows sitting on fence posts. I also hear the cries of pigeons, pheasants, and the odd flock of seagulls flying by; they are presences in the fog. I think about his body lying underground next to me. It seems barely credible.”
Find out more, read extracts and pledge here: https://unbound.com/books/thegreenhill/