It can be hard to take notice of the beauty and splendor of Mother Nature when you are grief stricken. When an emotionally turbulent event happens, such as the death of a loved one, it becomes all too easy to lose sight of your own happiness. The activities that use to make you happy seem uninteresting. Life seems to lose its luster, and everything feels like a chore.
These changes in your behavior can be dealt with through a variety of different ways. Gardening and Horticulture Assisted Therapies have been growing in popularity and for good reason. There are so many positive benefits associated with gardening, from greater satisfaction with life, relaxation, improved physical health, and decreased anxiety.
Susan Breikart, who works as a Registered Nurse in San Diego, CA told us how she managed to cope with the loss of her husband.
“Gardening has seen me through a very difficult time in my life. My garden was a testament to the grieving process. Gardens tend to go through various tests, harsh weather, bugs, and drought. Sometimes the garden must adjust to the changes. I am like my garden. I am going through life’s tests, the changing emotions, the new conditions, and I too have to adjust.”
What Makes Gardens So Tranquil?
The aromas of flowers and blooming plant life, the sound of birds chirping. Dewey mornings and sunny afternoons. It is no wonder why people choose to grow and care for gardens. Throughout history, there have been a number of gardens that are famous for their aesthetically beautiful landscapes.
Some of the most famous gardens in the world include:
- Chateae de Versailles in France
- Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England
- PowersCourt Estate in Ireland
- Villa d’Este Villa in Italy
Creating a Garden
For as long as humans have been around, there has always been an interest and subsequent satisfaction from creating something with your bare hands. With gardening, it is no different. After patience and proper care, you can transform any space of land into a colorful garden. The transformation does not happen overnight, it takes time. Much like a person, a garden is never complete. It is constantly changing, whether for better or worse.
Not only are gardens aesthetically pleasing, but you can also grow vegetables, spices, and even fruit. You are rewarded for your hard work and persistence with healthy food. You will not harvest immediately, but when you do, you can be assured that those vegetable and spices were grown with the love and care that you provided.
Every week you can take pictures and track growth. You can add to the garden with new plants, or you can harvest from the garden. No matter how you care for your garden, it will always be a labor of love. A way for you to leave behind troubles and create something new.
The Cycle of Life and Death
Planting a seed and watching it grow is an incredible experience. With some flowers, you see the entire life cycle from seed to full bloom in one year. From life to death, this is the natural way of things.
Watching the cycle of life and death play out on a smaller scale in your garden provides a good lesson. Nothing is permanent. Even the pain and grief you feel after a tragedy is only temporary. Everything is in a state of transformation. Since life is is this constant state of flux, it puts into perspective that there will be both good and bad times.
Growing With Your Garden
Gardens tend to go through various tests, tough weather conditions, barren soil, and hungry foraging animals. These trials are paralleled in the lives of all people. Nobody lives a perfect life, insulated from conflict, stress, and tragedy. Everyone will face adversity, it is how you react to these obstacles that matter most.
It does not matter if you are tending to a single fern in your apartment, or tending to a large outdoor garden, you are still interacting with nature on an intimate level. Be proud of your garden and show it the love deserves.
Gardening Wherever You Are
Not everyone has their own yard or lives in a place where gardening is possible. This does not mean that you cannot garden. You can still have a radiant indoor plant to nourish. The beauty of gardening is that it requires very little space. The tradition of Bonsai has been around for over a thousand years in Japan. Some people spend their whole lives mastering this sacred art form that consists of long-term cultivation of a small tree planted in a small container. The practice of caring for, and shaping the tree into different forms is a lifelong passion of many. These miniature trees are incredibly beautiful, and very easy to take with you on your journey through life.
The aesthetic element of harmony is highly valued in the Japanese culture. People who are cultivating a bonsai tree understated the need for careful attention to unity in the shapes and textures they choose for their tree. Curves and fluid lines in the composition symbolize nature’s harmonious coexistence with other elements, while crooked corners and jagged edges represent difficult milestones.
The color of the container, usually a neutral tone, also reflects the theme of simplicity found in nature. Bonsai’s attention to aesthetics means that the creation remains free of excessive ornamentation, letting the tree be center stage.
Environmental Benefits of Gardening
Planting your own garden, and growing your own food is hugely helpful in offsetting your carbon footprint and decreasing your impact on the environment. Agricultural products are one of the top 2 commodities transported by semi-trucks every year in the United States. A typical semi-truck gets about 5.63 miles per gallon of diesel while carrying 34,000 pounds of cargo. Each gallon of diesel burned releases 22.39 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Based on these numbers, each pound of food releases 0.17 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere just from transportation alone.
It is amazing just how much energy is spent in transportation. To give you an idea of the scale of this problem, all of the produce, and basically all other food, needs to be trucked in to cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix because they are in the middle of a desert, and cannot grow this produce at a large scale successfully.
By growing your own produce, you’re drastically reducing all emissions associated with the food’s transportation and directly reducing fossil fuel usage. The plants themselves utilize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and release oxygen, thus decreasing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. It is difficult to measure the exact amount of CO2 sequestered by the plants in a small garden, however, on a larger scale, the effect of everyone having a small garden would be enormous, and extremely helpful for our environment.
In addition, plants aren’t just important to humans. Bees thrive on pollination to make honey. With the rapidly deteriorating bee population, people need to do more to reduce our carbon footprint along with creating habitats for animals to live in.
Our carbon footprint is significantly reduced with the amount of organic waste we save from ending up in landfills by turning it into compost. Compost helps plants grow because of their high nutrient content. Coffee grounds, fruit peels, cardboard containers, and many other household waste items that would normally just end up in our overcrowded landfills instead can be put to good use in a garden.
You Also Save Money if You Garden Grows Food
Compare the cost of items needing to be purchased in order to start your own vegetable patch:
- Garden Soil – anywhere from $4.89 - $20.00
- Seeds – anywhere from $1.89 - $4.99 (one packet of seeds can last you all growing season)
- Sunlight: Free
- Water: We already pay for water
- Gardening gloves: anywhere from $4.00 - $12.00
- Gardening tools: a one-time cost of around $25.00 to buy all the gardening tools you will need
Most of the cost of gardening are one-time costs. So when the next growing season comes around, you already have most of the equipment and will only need to purchase seeds, unless you collected seeds directly from your produce.
The cost of fresh produce adds up as well. For a typical family of 4, they can expect to pay between $150-$390 on produce alone every month. If you have a small to medium sized garden, you can expect to produce 15-30 pounds of food a month in warm growing season months. This can realistically offset most of your budget on produce, and save a decent amount per month on the grocery bill.
I hope that whatever hobby or activity you turn to in your grief, that it brings about happiness and cultivates a deeper understanding of yourself.
If you are interested in a more in-depth look at grief then check out Coping with Grief and Tragedy - You Deserve a Happy Life.