Bereavement, Care & Support, Grief & Sympathy
What is grief gardening?

Grief will never leave you completely – but there are healthy ways to cope. Some people find that gardening as they grieve is a good way to ease some of the physical and emotional symptoms after a loss.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that spending at least an hour a day outside can help patients overcome poor mental health. Studies have found that spending time in the garden can decrease the stress hormone cortisol, reduce blood pressure and calm nerves.

This is because gardening has many therapeutic benefits; it’s a sensory process of creating and healing, filled with colour, texture and fragrance, rain or shine, with fresh air blowing out the cobwebs. As well as being active to work in, gardens are also restful, allowing us to take a break from our worries to take in nature and become temporarily carefree. 

In addition to growing plants and flowers on a windowsill or in a community garden, you can also volunteer in a garden if you do not have a garden. You do not have to be a green thumb to enjoy gardening.

The winter months in particular can be difficult when you are grieving because of the shorter, darker days and the cold weather. When you start gardening in the autumn, you will see the results of a winter garden when you need it most, inspiring you to get outside and get moving, even on a winter day. It is a good idea to plan a wildlife garden in autumn since local wildlife will also struggle through the winter months.

How can gardening reduce feelings of grief?

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” Audrey Hepburn.

You never completely get over the loss of a loved one, but the most intense, debilitating feelings will lessen as you learn how to cope. The first time you lose a loved one, it is difficult to imagine the future — and you may not want to. With gardening, we are able to gently move forward, experience the best of the world, as we plant seeds, watch things grow, work with the changing seasons, and see life and death cycle within the natural environment. 

By gardening, you will improve your emotional health as well as your physical health, both of which will assist you in dealing with grief more positively. In case you are in need of company or support, you can include friends or family in your gardening tasks or you can choose to garden alone if you feel that you need to take a break from others.

The benefits of gardening that help to reduce painful emotions
Emotional wellbeing Gardening immerses you in the present moment, helping you to reduce shock, anger or sadness and connect to nature as you feel the earth between your fingers and the sun on your skin.
 Social wellbeing Making connections with others who share an interest in gardening can help to reduce social isolation, and lessen those feelings of grief and loneliness.
Physical wellbeing From gentle activities like watering, to more intensive work-outs like digging and raking, you will get your body moving and the blood pumping, helping to reduce feelings of sadness or anger.

Grief can never be rushed, it will ebb and flow as memories surface and events come and go. But gardening can help you get through the hardest times by tempering the most overwhelming feelings.

What are the benefits of gardening for mental health?

In some cases, grief can add to ongoing mental health issues or it can lead to them.

Studies have found that gardening can have many benefits for our health, including our mental health, helping to:

✔ Improve concentration

✔ Lower the stress hormone (cortisol)

✔ Increase quality of life

✔ Interrupt harmful ruminations (excessive, intrusive thoughts)

✔ Manage symptoms of depression and anxiety

✔ Lower BMI

Types of mental health problems that can be triggered by grief include:


The death of a loved one is considered to be one of the most stressful things that can happen to you. Gardening can decrease stress levels during any stressful period in your life and is particularly effective in helping during bereavement. One recent study indicates that people who garden every day have stress levels 4.2% lower than people who do not garden at all.


The NHS are increasingly prescribing time in nature to help treat symptoms of depression. Patients with depression are often referred to voluntary organisations for community work including gardening, where you can meet and socialise with others. Incredibly, soil has even been found to contain antidepressant properties — brain cells were activated by bacteria in the soil to produce serotonin. Serotonin is the hormone that stabilises your mood and promotes feelings of contentment.


The loss of a loved one can exacerbate existing anxiety disorders, or it can sometimes lead to them. Symptoms of anxiety can include excessive worrying, obsessive negative thought patterns (rumination), excessive worrying, and panic attacks.

Gardening provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness (being aware of the present moment to calm a panic attack — grounding you when you notice the colours and smells around you). And research has found that spending time outside in nature can counteract all these symptoms by decreasing neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain associated with rumination), and increasing emotion regulation.

Produced by Memorials of Distinction whose website can be found HERE

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