Video loading...

A Father and Son Process Grief on a Walk

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

In A Walk with Dad, filmmaker Ryan O’Connor and his father walk Haytor Rocks, an outcropping in Dartmoor, England, and talk about the loss of their mother and wife. 

Video Transcript

[CLICKING] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): In 2001, my mum died. Her headstone stands atop the Haytor Summit in Devon. It's been 12 years since I visited her last. Recently, Dad and I returned. 

OLIVER SHELDON: You actually-- if you were a girl, you were going to be called Heather. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Oh, really? 

OLIVER SHELDON: Honestly. No word of a lie. I think it's where you were conceived. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: What? 

OLIVER SHELDON: [LAUGHS] 

I don't know where we got Ryan from, though. [LAUGHS] 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): Having arrived at Haytor, I quickly realized it wouldn't take us long to get up there. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: It's not going to take us very long to get up there. 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): My dad agreed. 

OLIVER SHELDON: Oh, no. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: We're almost there. 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): We changed directions-- 

RYAN O'CONNOR: It's this way. 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): --moving away from the summit. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: So do you feel like we were avoiding going up there? 

OLIVER SHELDON: I feel you were avoiding going up there. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): We continued our path further off course-- 

OLIVER SHELDON: It's a good view. It's not bad, aye? 

RYAN O'CONNOR: You're so bad. 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): --whilst ignoring the dead mum stuff. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Moo, moo. Moo, moo. 

OLIVER SHELDON: He's got the same haircut as me. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Where do you get your hair cut? 

OLIVER SHELDON: Oh. Me and Pete go to the Turks now. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: I'm talking to the cow. 

OLIVER SHELDON: We come in peace. They're munching. 

I wonder what that actually tastes like. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Why don't you try? 

OLIVER SHELDON: It's their diet, isn't it? Grass, and what? Nibble. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: What's nibble? 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): As the distance between us and the Summit grew, so did our need to find new forms of distraction. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: So did you watch Love Island? 

OLIVER SHELDON: No. Not allowed to. Pervy. 

(SINGING) Tell me that you love me. 

We're making up a song now. 

(SINGING) Tell me that you need me. I'll be there every time. 

I saw someone over there. I don't know whether that's where that tin cave is. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Over there? 

OLIVER SHELDON: Just there. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Yeah? 

OLIVER SHELDON: I was talking about you just going in there. Oh, no, it's just a pile of rocks. Is it? Yeah. It's just a pile of rocks. 

[BIRDS CHIRPING] 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Why was it a special place for her, do you think? 

OLIVER SHELDON: We loved the walks. And one just went into the next one, and you just carry on walking. And it had sort of a mystical presence about it. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: It does have this sort of like-- 

OLIVER SHELDON: Aura. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Yeah. 

OLIVER SHELDON: Mm. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: And magic. 

OLIVER SHELDON: She's an angel overlooking Dartmoor. 

[BIRDS CHIRPING] 

He doesn't know half of it, does he? 

RYAN O'CONNOR: What? What does he need to know? 

OLIVER SHELDON: We just kept walking across the moors there, naked. They're lovely. Brilliant, it was. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Not me and him. 

OLIVER SHELDON: No, no. Me and his mother. [LAUGHS] 

[BIRDS CHIRPING] 

Why have we taken so long? 

RYAN O'CONNOR: I mean, I had spent so much of my childhood burying that stuff and almost like, I'd say, killing her off. I'd been avoiding going there. 

OLIVER SHELDON: That was your way of coping. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Yeah. 

OLIVER SHELDON: And now you're ready. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

RYAN O'CONNOR (VOICEOVER): Finally, we had run out of distractions. 

OLIVER SHELDON: I mean, it's not time to let go. It's just time to move on. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Right. 

OLIVER SHELDON: You know. And this is where you come back to if you're at ease with things. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Right. 

OLIVER SHELDON: And she's always there. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Yeah. 

OLIVER SHELDON: And it's like you just go to the rock and talk to her and tell her how you're feeling, and maybe that will resolve your problems. 

Some people go in and see therapists. Some go to a rock. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: I do both. 

[LAUGHTER] 

OLIVER SHELDON: Well, there you go. You get your money's worth. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: I don't know what I'm going to say. 

OLIVER SHELDON: Yeah. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Or there probably is too much to say. 

OLIVER SHELDON: All you have to do is tell her how you feel at the time. 

SPEAKER: Hello. 

OLIVER SHELDON: There goes Ali, off into the sunset. There she is, leaving me now. Wave goodbye, Ali. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

RYAN O'CONNOR: It feels like there was like this bit of me that was lost before. [SNIFFLING] 

Yeah, that's back. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Yeah. [SNIFFLING] 

OLIVER SHELDON: I think it's therapeutic. 

RYAN O'CONNOR: Mm. I just don't really cry as much in therapy. 

[LAUGHTER] 

SINGER: (SINGING) Walking in my morning. In the morning, let me tell you of the ashes in the grave. Sun is raised for dawning. At the dawning, let me lift my heart and free my song from the grave. 

Hiking and Backpacking