Grief and loss is usually associated with death, although it can be experienced around any loss as I am harshly reminded after a vicious, 3 hour long hailstorm obliterated our gardens, flooded our basement, and pummeled our cars.
Today I am grieving the loss of the beauty that usually surrounds me in Colorado’s short summer months. My back yard is a little slice of paradise I have created for myself over the course of 13 years. It’s my escape, the place where I can recharge my batteries and relax, my sacred space that I enjoy sharing with my family and friends.
Well-intentioned people who do not understand the significance of this loss remind me that my plants are still alive and will come back next year, or that I can buy new plants at the garden center. Such comments are meant to provide hope but they dismiss the pain that I feel every time I look at the destruction. It is heart-breaking to see the plants that I have nurtured destroyed just as they were about to bloom, robbing me of the pleasure their beauty and fragrance bring. It is agonizing looking at the remains of vegetable plants that only yesterday showed promise of a bountiful harvest.
Gardening is an art form. The dirt is my canvas and the flowers and vegetables are the paint. I feel like my art gallery was invaded by a gang of hooligans who callously slashed all my paintings to shreds. I feel like the victim of a brutal assault.
Fortunately, thanks to my education and training, I have many tools to help me get through this loss more gracefully. Grief is a normal response to loss and while the grieving process is deeply personal and gradual, there are some common factors that are helpful in navigating the process. I would like to share some of those with you here.
- Talking – it is very therapeutic to be able to share details of your loss with a caring person who will listen without offering advice or minimizing your pain. Counseling from a therapist trained in grief and loss can help you pinpoint where you are in the grieving process, assist in identifying your strengths, and support you in finding ways to cope.
- Support groups set up specifically to address the loss you are facing (for example, the death of a loved one, the loss of a pet, surviving a flood). In my case, such a group does not exist. I plan on forming an informal support group for my fellow gardeners in the neighborhood. It is helpful to share your experience with people who truly understand your loss and realize you are not alone.
- Print a copy of The Mourner’s Bill of Rights and refer to it often.
- Understand that the grieving process has stages and know you will eventually be able to move through them and possibly even be able to create meaning from your loss.
- Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the time you need to heal. The grieving process can take a long time.
I recognize that I am still in a state of shock and am feeling numb from my losses. I also know that I will eventually move on to acceptance, start working towards repairing the damage, and doing what we gardeners do best – sowing hope. However, I am not there yet and because I am exhausted (grieving is very tiring) I am going to practice self-care and take a nap!
“While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.” ~ Samuel Johnson