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Gardening can help you heal while grieving

Eliana' Garden memorial rock in her garden

In August of 2020, I received a call with the news that is every mother’s nightmare. There had been an accident and my six-year-old daughter did not survive. That week, her lovely kindergarten teacher brought us five plants to start a butterfly garden. Although I already loved gardening, at that time I did not realize how much healing I would find creating a butterfly garden in her memory.    

The day of the accident, we saw more butterflies than we had seen the entire summer. That has become a special symbol to remind us of our little girl. The butterfly garden that we have installed brings a constant butterfly population to our garden throughout the summer and fall. Knowing the butterflies can thrive in our garden space is a special comfort to us.  

Therapeutic effect of gardening

Gardening has been known to provide a therapeutic effect for many people dealing with grief and loss. The process of planting, nurturing, and watching something grow can be a powerful tool in healing the emotional wounds caused by the loss of a loved one. For me, it is seeing a special flower or beautiful butterfly, and thinking how much she would have loved watching the garden come alive.  

In addition to providing a sense of purpose and accomplishment, gardening can also serve as a form of meditation and mindfulness. Focusing on the present moment and the task at hand can help to quiet the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. In those moments the weight of the grief is not quite so heavy as my attention is focused on the task of bringing life and beauty to a space in my garden.  


Furthermore, gardening can create a sense of connection to nature and the cycles of life and death. This can be especially helpful for those who have experienced a loss, as it can provide a sense of perspective and acceptance. As my family journeys through coping with this loss, we find that making the conscience effort to be out in nature on a hike or working in the garden is helping us heal together.  

The act of gardening can be a powerful tool in the healing process for those dealing with grief. It provides a sense of purpose, mindfulness, and connection to nature that can help to ease the pain of loss and promote emotional well-being. Observing this cycle of new growth, blooming, seed formation and dormancy helps me understand seasons of change and growth.

Healing journey

Many people who are grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with other reasons of grief use gardening as a way to heal. The journey through loss of a loved one is not easy, but the living beauty created in a garden is one step that I have found helps me cope as we move ever forward through the grief. Gardening is just one small piece of my healing process. Therapy, support from family and friends, faith, and many other little things have been important in the healing process; a journey I will continue throughout my life. I know that we all process grief in our own way, but my hope is that sharing my experience might be helpful to someone who is walking their own path through grief and loss.