I have had experience recently of working with a client gardener who was struggling to cope and process their grief in a healthy way.

It prompted me to publish this blog because the results of working in our Community Garden at Happy Days, Halifax, and the positive changes that have taken place for him have been truly wonderful to witness.

When you lose someone, the grief will never go away completely, but there are healthy ways to cope. Some people find that gardening as they grieve, known as ‘grief gardening’, can gently relieve some of the emotional and physical symptoms after the loss of a loved one.

This is because gardening has many therapeutic benefits; it’s a sensory process of creating and healing, packed with colour, texture and fragrance, rain or shine, with fresh air to blow the cobwebs away. Gardens are both active to work and restful to sit in, helping us to relax and let go, taking a break away from our worries to breathe in nature and become temporarily carefree.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”

Audrey Hepburn.

You never completely get over the loss of a loved one, gardening provides an activity in which you can gently move forwards and experience the best of the world, as you plant seeds, watch things grow, work with the changing seasons.

 

The benefits of gardening that help to reduce painful emotions

Emotional wellbeing Gardening immerses you in the present moment, helping you to reduce shock, anger or sadness and connect to nature as you feel the earth between your fingers and the sun on your skin.
 Social wellbeing Making connections with others who share an interest in gardening can help to reduce social isolation, and lessen those feelings of grief and loneliness.
Physical wellbeing From gentle activities like watering, to more intensive work-outs like digging and raking, you will get your body moving and the blood pumping, helping to reduce feelings of sadness or anger.

What are the benefits of gardening for mental health?

In some cases, grief can add to ongoing mental health issues or it can lead to them. Gardening can have many benefits for our health, including helping to:

✔ Improve concentration ✔ Lower the stress hormone (cortisol) ✔ Increase quality of life

✔ Interrupt harmful ruminations (excessive, intrusive thoughts) ✔ Manage symptoms of depression and anxiety

Types of mental health problems that can be triggered by grief include:

Stress. The death of a loved one is considered to be one of the most stressful things that can happen to you. Gardening can decrease stress levels during any stressful period in your life and is particularly effective in helping during bereavement.

Depression. The NHS are increasingly prescribing time in nature to help treat symptoms of depression.

Anxiety. The loss of a loved one can exacerbate existing anxiety disorders, or it can sometimes lead to them. Gardening provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness, being aware of the present moment to calm a panic attack, grounding you when you notice the colours and smells around you.

When you are grieving, you can become very quickly and easily overwhelmed. And if you haven’t had any experience gardening before, it can be intimidating. Remember to start small and keep it simple, you don’t want to add to your stress, this is all about enjoyment and healing.