• Audrey Stringer

Grief Gardening: The Nature of Grief and Mourning Part Two

Sometimes plants die like people in our lives. Your grief journey is similar to gardening. Planting in the spring and enjoying the cascade of beauty in the summer light. Autumn is a time of getting plants ready for a winter’s sleep. Again, I gaze at the century-old oak tree with its trunk agile and resilient. Its roots are grounded and firm in order to withstand howling winds, bitter cold, blowing snow, whipping rains, and sometimes drought. Like the tree, we can weather the storms of life, if we believe. Remember the roots of the tree are strong and solid. Let’s make this our life story. When toiling in the garden, you have to get down and dirty. The same is true for learning to live with deep loss. Some days you may experience every emotion in one minute. Other days you may not want to get out of bed. You may feel suspended like the hostas or tulips in winter. Feelings of love and joy may fill up your vessel when you watch your grandchild play in a field of grass. Indecisiveness may be your friend, or confidence may only visit for a few minutes. Playing in Mother Earth is grounding, de-stressing and life-giving. As you nurture yourself playing in the garden, you will open a place of joy within you and see the gifts of growth and beauty in both you and the earth. The twenty-five-year-old maple stands tall and proud in my previous home’s backyard. I mourned when I had to leave this tree in the hands of strangers. This tree was my source of comfort for many years after my son Steven’s death. Steven died of suicide at age twenty-three on August 25,1992. Family and friends united to not only mourn, but to celebrate his twenty fourth birthday on September 28,1992. A spark of healing began in the planting of the tall, skinny maple on that day. We shared memories, broke bread, and I watched his friends plant this symbolic tree. This tree stands tall and proud. It shares its love in the vibrant green in spring and summer, and in radiant reds of autumn. It was in the experience of digging the hole and planting this new life that gave us a sliver of hope for what was to be. I weep in autumn when the robust red leaves fall to the ground to die. Sadness and longing seep into my soul when I witness the bare, lonely maple in winter. In springtime, I see new life and new growth on the tree and I realize it will take many seasons to come to terms with my loss. But, this maple learned to be resilient despite the heat, cold, wind and rain. like the maple, I can see resilience shining forth within me.

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