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Gardening Through Grief, Stress & Depression

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Gardening Through Grief, Stress & Depression Empty Gardening Through Grief, Stress & Depression

Post  sfg4uKim on 1/16/2012, 8:30 pm

I just finished an article on Gardening Through Grief, Stress & Depression which got me thinking about some of the stories I've read here in the Forum. As someone who is working on my Master's in Christian Counseling, and someone who recently participated in a Grief Group, this article struck a cord.

Has your garden ever been your "therapist", your "counselor", your "friend & confidant", your "shoulder to cry on" during tough times?

The past few months have been particularly stressful: my sister-in-law Sharon suffered a stroke in June and at that time my brother Alan was caring for our mother with dementia. I needed to QUICKLY prepare a room for her and bring her here to Maryland (in the middle of renovations and while my husband was overseas). Sharon still does not have use of her left side and my brother cares for her.

In August I hosted the Baltimore Symposium (my husband was back and cared for mom) and in September I taught at the community college (mom loved coming with me and proudly watched me teach). Things were going well.

In October she became violent and it was necessary to hospitalize her then QUICKLY find an assisted living facility for her. She was only there a couple weeks when she fell (helping another resident) and broke her hip. She needed a partial hip replacement and then I had to QUICKLY find a rehabilitation center for her.

She has fallen twice since being there - with dementia she forgets that she can't just get out of bed (or a chair) on her own.

In November my niece (Alan & Sharon's daughter) was hospitalized with an extremely high-risk pregnancy (she delivered a healthy baby boy in December). New Year's Eve, Sharon's mother died. Just a week later Sharon was rushed to the hospital and almost died. She needs heart valve surgery, but her numerous other medical issues make this impossible. She was released from the hospital a few days ago.

I did MUCH better with all this when there were things to do in the garden. Now that it's been "put to bed", I don't have that stress relief. In just two months, I've packed on 20 lbs.

Thankfully I will begin teaching again starting in three weeks and just from preparing slides and organizing materials, I've dropped a couple of pounds.

This has not been written to elicit sympathy, but rather to confirm what the article brings up - how beneficial and cathartic gardening can be. Maybe it will give us all another reason to appreciate this wonderful gift we've been given.


I have seen women looking at jewelry ads with a misty eye and one hand resting on the heart, and I only know what they're feeling because that's how I read the seed catalogs in January - Barbara Kingsolver - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

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Female Posts : 2054
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Post  Chopper on 1/16/2012, 9:17 pm

When I first started my garden in March 2010 I was living in a house that came up to auction and was postponed a month every month. Planting was a complete leap of faith as I had no idea when I would have to leave. I had no job and few prospects and all of this was a result of my husband walking out to start a relationship with his first cousin 2000 miles away after 31 years of marriage. To say I was clinically depressed was an understatement.

The garden saved me emotionally, physically and there were times that it was all the food I have for days in a row. The garden was my one happy place and when I was in it I thought of little else. And nothing bothered me there. If something did not sprout, I planted more. If I had bugs, I let them be and picked around them (oddly most things will still produce with bug and disease damage, just not as much). I went out there first thing every morning and whenever I could during the day. My only complaint is that there is not that much to do in an SFG! So I just made and planted more.

I ended up with 8 boxes and grew everything I liked and saved one box just for flowers. It was such a balm in troubled times. For the last box or two I was completely out of money but used some almost finished compost to fill them and was very pleased with the results.

2010 was the toughest year I have ever encountered. I learned so much, not the least of which is that grief does not actually kill even though it feels like it will. I have no idea how I survived, but I do know that my SFG made getting from one day to the next bearable.

Female Posts : 2467
Join date : 2010-05-05
Age : 65
Location : Warner Springs, CA USDA Zone 8a, Sunset Zone 7 (I think)


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Post  CindiLou on 1/17/2012, 2:08 am

I started my sfg just for an experiment.

The next year I lost my last grandparent and a nephew within months of each other. The garden gave me the reason to get out of the house and live. I did not know how depressed I was, I just knew I could go talk to my plants and they didn't try to answer. After I had gotten through the worst of it, I was able to put the garden to bed for the winter much healthier mentally.

I was not so lucky this past year. I lost an aunt that was like a big sister early in the summer. Before I could recover good I had another nephew..same age and the same name as the year before!... pass way. I was devastated. I muddled on to get the harvest in. Then just as I was getting better and would have been putting the garden to bed, my darling mother -in- law passed. I did not want to do anything with the garden even. I did get some cleared..the rest is just sitting there...

I have since had a son-in-law pass...

I so want the spring to be here so I can go out and lose myself with my little friends. It is so peaceful to work in the garden. It is easy to sit and "look" like your are working. You can just work mindlessly or think about any subject you want. No one comes to talk if you look like your "working" lol..

My garden has enabled me to stay away from the "anti-depressant" drugs through all this. I just tell my doctor I "prescribe" at least one daily dose of garden!

Posts : 999
Join date : 2010-08-30
Age : 60
Location : South Central Iowa, Zone 5a (20mi dia area in 5b zone)rofl...

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Post  shannon1 on 1/17/2012, 3:53 am

My garden is the place I destress after work. Like many people I live pay check to pay check and there were (and are) times I'm not certain I will have a job the next day. I listen to the birds sing, watch the plants grow and feel renewed. I found my dear friend (20yrs) and neighbor's body on the 4th of this month. I have talked of her many times here on the forum. She and her cat were the biggest fans of my garden. Now I work even harder to keep it a beautiful place, remembering the good times we had enjoying it together and sharing it's bounty. Her cat is mine now; she is still following me about as I plant and tend. I will always miss Joyce but as so often happens with illness and/or age her body had become a prison. I remind my self that now she is free. Cherish the time we had and smile because I was lucky enough to have known her. The garden is the place I find peace and when I am there all is right with the world. I am not a religious person but I do believe we go on in way or another after death, and I hope Joyce still visits my garden from time to time.

Posts : 1697
Join date : 2011-04-01
Location : zone 9a St.Johns county FL

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Post  plantoid on 1/17/2012, 7:22 am

Having an emotional vacuum in your life lends you to filling it with all sorts of things that had you not been emotionally flat/empty you would never consider using / seeking or feeding your emotions on.

The laws of physics dictate that where there is a partial vacuum unless it is sealed up some thing will be drawn in to cause equilibrium.
Getting back to nature , occupying your thoughts & planning for the future fills that vacuum perfectly with natural things , you have the fruits of you labour later on as a reward.
It also gets you out of the house into natural day light , so you get vitamin A via your skin which helps calm you brain & body in general by helping to produce serotonin . Which in turn removes the toxic cortisol from your body that you produce when depressed or angry . Moving your muscles does this as well so you're kind of on a self cure path to 101 recovery .

I've found that several times just occupying my mind fully by being out working in the garden and breaking the vacuum was the start of things . It gives you time to de focus on upsetting circumstances & re focus on the cycle of life , helps you understand and accept it better . What's that old saying , " Time heals most things if you let it " . It kind of gives you that breathing space to self heal .

One thing we don't get out of our garden is the pity parties we often attend .
I've had a few of those over the years ,till I discovered I didn't like where they took me and so I decided not to go down those routes again... Hey Presto years later I find that all the motivationalists , theraphists and psychatrists are singing the same song off the same song sheet ( unless you're paying them thousands of dollars at each visit to them )

Due the theraputic aspects of my gardening over the last 45 years I've been able to overcome / live much easier with a major injury /disability to my upper body in 1978 , a messy acid divorce 1982-1984 , losing my home 1984, bringing up two children on my own 1984 now ongoing Wink , re marrying 1988 ( best thing since sliced bread ) another disabling injury this time to my lower spine 1995 , several close family & friends dying some in quite messy circumstances , becoming a dad again at 51 years old ( this is a bonus .... honestly ). Plus all sorts of crap that are part & parcel of every day life which are quite normal .. everyone gets them .

It's how you handle them that counts & ANSFG is a very good key to unlocking that door , so are the " steam valve " friendships we develop amongst the other happy gardeners on this site.

Male Posts : 4030
Join date : 2011-11-09
Age : 69
Location : At the west end of M4 in the UK

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