Growing Through Grief Karen L. Kennedy, HTR Horticultural Therapist [email_address]
“ Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir
Plants and Life
Flowers and other plants are intertwined in both celebratory and commemorative cultural rituals
Fragrance as well as specific plants are linked to memories of events, places and people
Generally, gardens are places where people seek relief from stress, relaxation and joy
So what do we know about the people/plant response?
Responding Naturally to Nature
Even young children are curious about nature and love to explore outdoors
Children and adults seem to intuitively know that being outdoors makes them feel better
Passively interacting with plants impacts physical health by:
Decreasing blood pressure
(Ulrich, 1984, Lohr & Pearson-Mims, 2000)
The term “soft fascination” was coined to describes how the brain attends to the details of nature , providing a break from daily stress and resulting in a restorative experience
Nature Deficit Disorder “ Nature-deficit disorder is not an official diagnosis but a way of viewing the problem, and describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.” — Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Horticultural Therapy Is a professionally conducted treatment method that utilizes horticulture activities to meet specific therapeutic or rehabilitative goals.
HT, a Catalyst for Coping with Grief
Lifecycles in nature often parallel the human existence
Actively growing and tending plants provides opportunities to improve mood and positive coping skills.
Container and garden projects provide ample opportunity for creative self expression, enhanced communication , reminiscence and stress management.
Topiary: the art of fashioning plants into ornamental shapes
14 gauge coated solid electrical wire, in 5’ lengths
Soil-less growing media
Ivy plants, small leaved varieties best for intricate shapes
Decorating supplies such as chenille stems, ribbon, dried flowers, markers or other materials to decorate the pot
Optional: additional florist wire, floral tape, fishing line
Using the topiary project to facilitate the grieving process:
Selecting the Shape
If you could send a message to your loved one, create a symbol or shape that conveys that message.
What do you value or treasure about the person you lost? What did they leave you?
What stories are left to tell?
Create a shape that symbolizes an interest or passion of the person you lost.
Tending the Topiary
As the ivy plant grows, continue to wind the stems gently around the wire
Place topiary in bright light but out of direct sun
Water when dry
Use the kitchen sprayer or a gentle garden hose spray to rinse the leaves off now and then
As your plant grows and fills in the frame, notice the growth in your life since you first created it.
The American Horticultural Therapy Association (ahta.org)
Haller, R.L., Kramer, C.L., (2006) Horticultural Therapy Methods, Making Connections in Health Care, Human Service, and Community Programs. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
Simson, S.P., Straus, M. C., (Eds.). (1998). Horticultural as Therapy, Principles and Practice. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
Majuri, Charles, E. (2009). Upon Reflection: A Theoretical Perspective for Using Horticultural Therapy with Children. The Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture . Vol. XIX (65-67)
Gallup, B., Reich, B. (1988). The Complete Book of Topiary. Workman Publishing Co.