Posted on Mar 15, 2019 | by Kerry Kelley
Remember a loved one and heal the soul
A garden is an amazing thing. It can provide us with food, provide habitat for wildlife, or simply add beauty and value to our home. But a garden can also transcend the mere material benefits, imbuing our spirit with peace and hope. In times of grief, the soothing properties of a garden can help us heal.
Many find the process of gardening therapeutic, as it offers a distraction from negative thought patterns while providing motivation and focus. When a loved one (two-legged or four-legged) passes, we may need a space that offers us peace and comfort, and positive reminders of the good times. You can create such a place, whether to help you through the grieving process, to leave a lasting tribute to your loved one, or both.
A memorial garden does not have to be a complicated project. If you're new to gardening, keep it simple--perhaps a small area with a bench to sit and reflect, a few low-maintenance perennials, and a birdbath or meaningful piece of garden art or statuary as a focal point. Advanced gardeners may wish to add a tree, a group of shrubs to enclose the garden for privacy, and/or an arbor or trellis with flowering vines.
Design elements that induce calm and quiet reflection include flowing lines, rounded shapes, water sounds, and a minimal color palette. Include a few bright spots of color to cheer you--think a burst of yellow surrounded by shades of green in various textures. Shadier spots lend themselves well to this type of garden.
If you prefer to make your tribute a colorful celebration, you may do well to choose a sunnier location where more types of intensely hued flowers will thrive. Low-maintenance perennials such as flowering natives and succulents will lessen upkeep. You may even be able to work initials or a heart into a design using small, low-growing succulents or groundcovers.
Angels, cherubs, fairies, and Buddhas are popular statuary choices. Military and team mascot pieces can sometimes be found. Figures representing a favorite animal, sport, or hobby may also be meaningful.
Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals, would be an appropriate choice for a pet memorial. Also available are engraved garden stones for a beloved pet. A splendid tribute to a specific breed of dog can be made with a topiary frame.
In my own garden, having a special light at night has been profoundly comforting. Whether while sitting in the memorial area, or when seen from the house, the light makes me feel as if my loved one and I are both watching out for each other. Those connections are essential to the memorial garden and its capacity to aid the grieving process.
We know that nature provides a healing environment. In times of stress, working with or being surrounded by plants and flowers can help us cope. As part of coping with loss, remembering the positive influence of a loved one on the world and maximizing the connection between two souls can ease the pain. Creating a memorial garden is more than just good therapy, it is a lasting tribute to love, faith, and ultimately, the resilience of the human spirit.
- Provide small river rocks and permanent markers to guests at memorial services. Ask them to write the one word that most comes to mind when they think of the loved one. The stones can then be placed in the garden as a permanent reminder of what that person meant to others, and as an inspiration to all who visit the garden. Stones can be spray painted before personalizing for a more colorful display, and clear-coated afterward for durability.
- To help children deal with their loss, add a few concrete stepping stones on which they can place chalk messages or drawings for their loved one.
- Messages to loved ones can be placed in colorful glass bottles placed throughout the garden, on a bottle tree, or hung from tree branches.
- One can often find plants with names that are meaningful, perhaps connected with a favorite interest, hobby, or place. For instance, Jazz Hands® Loropetalum, Daytona Heat™ "Petty Blue" Vitex, or "Paris in Pink" Hellebore.
- Items belonging to the loved one may be included in the garden: a bowling ball as a garden sphere; a tennis racket or golf club as a support for flowering vines; a kitchen colander, boot, or tackle box becomes a planter; teacups, saucers, other glassware can be transformed into garden art stakes or bird feeders. With a little imagination, the possibilities are limitless.
- A pet's water or food dish can be fashioned into a small bird bath, feeder, or planter to place in the garden.