Bob and Joy Jones, two of our previous Coordinators and befrienders, discuss the seasons of grief through the eyes of a gardener.

I don’t know about you, but I like gardening. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if I want to be a successful gardener, I need to be aware of the seasons and base what I do around them. For those of us whose partner has died, understanding that there are also ‘seasons of grief’ may help us on our journey.

In an autumn garden it is sad to see all the beauty and growth of the previous months dying away. There are lots of jobs to do to make sure that our garden grows again, but the weather is getting colder, and our hearts may not be in it. And so it is after our partner dies. We are overwhelmed by sadness at the loss of what has been – but we must get on with all the important tasks that are so necessary in the early days and maybe even, in small ways, begin to accept our loss.

Winter is the worst time in the garden. There is little to do, the weather is cold and wet, and sometimes all we want to do is hide away in the house and pretend that the world outside isn’t there. On the bereavement journey, this is when we hit the buffers. We feel the pain of our loss and wonder if life can ever be good again. Hope seems to be buried under the snow and washed away by the rain. This is normal – we are processing our grief.

In spring the very first signs of new life can be seen – the first snowdrops and crocuses poke their heads through the snow. As the weather gets warmer other plants appear. We may feel like planting some new seeds in our lives and begin to see that it might be possible to be able to adjust to a different garden – a new environment in which our loved one is no longer present.

And then comes summer. Our summer garden will have much to remind us of what it used to be like when our loved one was alive. We can remember those times with fondness, but if we have planted new seeds it will also be different. It will now carry our unique stamp, displaying the fruits of our own reinvestment in new life. It will be different – it will be ours.

Of course, weather can be unpredictable. All may seem to be going well; the seeds sown in spring have started to grow. Then suddenly there is a cold snap and we’re plunged back into winter and the deepest grief we have known. Yet cold snaps don’t last forever. Spring will come and summer will follow. Seeds can be sown again and will flourish. Perhaps for some there will be no cold snaps  a warm spring turns into a beautiful summer and our new lives grow and blossom.

Just like the weather, we cannot predict exactly what our bereavement journey will look like. But we can know that over time spring will eventually replace winter and summer will come soon enough – as long as we are prepared to plant our seeds of hope and nourish them. There’s an old saying that comes from the Bible: ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’. There will be seasons on our journey. If we look back with fondness and look forward with hope, all the while carrying our loved one in our hearts and minds, life can still go on.

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