Dealing With Loss – 5 Ways in Which Trees Help Us Grieve
Grief is a difficult thing to put into words. It can be defined as the emotional suffering that we feel in response to loss.
Throughout your life, many different experiences will bring about feelings of grief, such as relationship breakdown, loss of job, broken trust or a child leaving home for the first time. One event that is perhaps the most easily associated with grief is death of a loved one.
What does it feel like?
According to The Grief Recovery Institute, grief “is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change” in something that is familiar to us. These conflicting feelings include:
* Deep sadness
* Shock or disbelief
* And more
These emotions are usually accompanied by physical symptoms like inability to sleep or eat, inability to focus and think clearly, irritability, drowsiness, headaches and nausea.
What’s the best way to deal with my feelings while grieving?
When it comes to grief, there’s no right or wrong way of approaching your feelings. Despite its universality (we all experience it at some point in our lives), it’s something that each one of us experiences differently, depending on our personality and nature of our loss.
Grief is a personal and intimate process. After all, no one in the world has had the same relationship with your loved one as you did. Your relationship was one of a kind and it’s important to allow yourself the time and space you need to move through this loss in your own unique way.
But although there’s no right way to deal with it, you must allow yourself to move forward and go THROUGH it. It’s absolutely “necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it” (helpguide.org). Only then you’re allowing your heart to properly heal.
In this article, we’re going to explore a unique way of tacking your feelings head on, and that’s through planting a tree.
A simple yet powerful practice.
Planting a tree is an easy and seemingly unremarkable activity. At least until we discover more about its true meaning.
Historically, trees have long been associated with life giving, immortality, love, strength and eternity. They have been sacred for many cultures and religions, often planted in celebration of different life cycles such as marriage and birth of a child. In many parts of the world, including Israel, trees are planted to commemorate a loved one’s life after they pass, some believing that trees hold onto their spirits.
It will give you something to remember them by.
While grieving, many people experience an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. Planting a tree is a “warm and moving way of keeping a lost loved one’s memory alive and creates a tranquil place to visit and treasure the happy memories shared” (griefandsympathy.com).
By planting one, you’re creating a new life in their honour that will continue to grow and to give for years to come.
It will bring you comfort in the future.
Whether you choose to plant it yourself in your own garden or to dedicate a tree in a local forest, it will forever be a place you can go to to feel connected to your loved one in a beautiful way. It will be a place you can go to when the feelings of loss get to hard to bear, or when something happens in your life that makes you miss them more than ever.
It will be a place you can go to remember, smile, laugh, love and to cry when you need to. And that in itself can be comforting.
It will give you a purpose.
On more difficult days, you may find yourself unable to get out of bed in the morning, sleep, eat or even interact with others.
Planting a tree and then caring for it daily in memory of your loved one will not only give you a reason to get up and face the outside world, but it will also make you feel like you’re doing something that’s meaningful. By caring for and nourishing it, you’ll feel like you’re doing something wonderful for the person that you love and that you are, in a way, carrying on their memory.
Overtime, you can make it even more special by adding:
* A bench underneath the tree for you to sit on
* Chimes and bells that will blow in the wind, making you feel more spiritual and connected to your loved one
* A bird box or their favourite flowers to attract wildlife
* A stone or a wooden plaque with a lovely, meaningful message
It can make healing easier.
Many studies have been done to prove the positive effects of nature – especially surrounding yourself with trees – on our mental and physical health. We are, after all, a part of nature ourselves and spending time outdoors helps us alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety, and makes us feel more calm, appreciative and hopeful for the future.
Spending time outdoors and working on your tree will provide you with some light exercise while the work itself can be therapeutic and healing for the soul, mind and body. In the words of David Hobson, “gardening and laughing are two of the best things in life you can do to promote good health and a sense of well-being”. Gardening can be a great outlet for your unreleased emotions.
It makes a thoughtful gift.
When your friend of family member is going through loss of their loved one, it’s difficult to know what to say and how to act around them. You want to make them feel better, but grief is an individual and personal journey.
A gift of a tree (either seeds or potted plant, ready to be replanted) can be better than a bouquet of flowers to express your condolences. While flowers may look lovely and vibrant, they will wilt within a few days or weeks at best and can cause feelings of sadness when they do – as a reminder of mortality.
A tree, on the other hand, will bring them healing and joy for many years to come – with blooming flowers in the spring or fruits in the summer.
How to commemorate your loved one with a tree:
* You can plant your own tree in your garden. This will let you feel closer to your loved one, seeing your tree from your window and being able to visit whenever you want to.
* To make it more meaningful, look up symbolism of different trees to plant the one that can best commemorate your relationship with your loved one. A great website offering symbolic trees (whether for yourself or as a gift) is thepresenttree.com.
* You can dedicate a tree (or a bigger area of woodland) to your loved one in a local forest. You can do this through an organisation like Woodland Trust at woodlandtrust.org.uk.
* If you have no garden or access to a forest, you can choose from a selection of smaller potted plants and trees that you can care for from the comfort of your own home. Some examples include grapevine, coffee tree and an orange tree.
* You can even scatter the ashes of your loved one around the tree or mix them with the soil in which the tree is planted. You can learn more about this unique practice at https://thepresenttree.com/blogs/news/planting-a-memorial-tree.
If you’re struggling to deal with your grief, our mental health advisors are here to help.
At Just Me, I Am Me, we help people all around the UK by lending a listening ear. If you need support with finding the right help and resources for your situation, need advice regarding mental health or wellbeing or you simply need someone to talk to about your problem, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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3. One of our dedicated mental health advisors will usually get back to you within minutes
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