Losing a loved one is a hardship that we will all face at some point in our lives. Hopefully, it occurs after the person has lived a long and fulfilling life, but even then their death can be devastating. It is important to find healthy and restorative ways to cope with the pain of loss, and being in nature is one of the most accessible options. It’s even been proven by science that nature is healing for your body and mind, and memorial garden is the perfect way to combine the healing effects of nature and honoring your loved one. Even if you don’t have a “green thumb” or a lot of space, you can create a comforting space to sit with your memories.
There are many ways nature can aid in the grief journey. Take a hike for example. The solitude of a hike is the perfect time to scream, curse, and ugly cry, letting all the negative emotions out of your body. I have many friends who started running, finding that the adrenaline of the exercise helped them release their feelings. My favorite way of finding comfort in nature is gardening. Working in the soil, planning beautiful flower and plant combinations, and yes, even pulling weeds, is very calming to me.
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Where to Start
You first need to decide on the space for your memorial garden. It is important to choose a space that will be easy to maintain and will not overwhelm you. Grief alone is a full time job, and your memorial garden should not be an added stress but a place to heal and restore. You can even create a potted garden if you do not have a large yard or live in an apartment. Any outdoor space will do. When you decide on a place for your garden, you should track how much sun it gets throughout the day and which places are more shady. This will determine what kind of plants you are able to use in your garden. Keep in mind the purpose of your garden. Do you want to attract butterflies and bees? Are there specific plants or flowers that remind you of your loved one? Do you want a shady space to sit and reflect? A garden with a mixture of sun and shade will give you more freedom in what plants you choose.
Choosing your Plants
Once you decide on a space for your memorial garden, it’s time to choose your plants and layout. You will need to know your zone so you can be sure to choose plants that will grow well in your area. Tropical plants will not survive in northern climates, and many northern plants will not do well in the southern zones. Choosing native plants will decrease the amount of maintenance for your garden so you can spend more time enjoying the beauty and remembering your loved ones. Your local garden center is a great place to ask questions and find out the best plants for your area. Be sure to check the sun requirements for each plant to properly place them in your garden. If your goal is to attract butterflies, most of these plants need full sun, but there are plenty of gorgeous plants that love shade too. For a lower maintenance garden, choose native perennials that don’t need to be replanted every year. Wildflowers are a great perennial choice for an easy, wild garden and perfect for non-perfectionists. If you find peace and comfort working in your garden, annuals that need to be replanted every year will give you a reason to get your hands in the dirt. I like a mixture of both.
Decorating your Garden
Another component of your garden will be any stones, statues, or outdoor pieces that you received after the loss of your loved one. We have several beautiful garden stones with meaningful sayings on them and also received a couple of angel statues that are perfect for my memorial garden. I am always looking for new pieces to add to my garden when I go to the garden center and am particularly drawn to cherub statues. You can find several beautiful options for statues or memorial stones on Amazon or Etsy. I love the idea of creating your own garden stones with this Mosaic Leaf Stepping Stone Kit. While concrete will be the longest lasting option, properly sealed resin stones and statues can also last outside for quite some time.
Adding Unique Touches
If you have a large amount of space to work with, you can create a meditation labyrinth, reflection pond, or plant a memorial tree in the middle of your memorial garden. You can even use a combination of these elements. The DIY Network has a great tutorial on how to design a paver stone labyrinth, but you could easily create a beautiful labyrinth by placing stones directly on the grass. Building a meditation pond is a much more involved process, but can be very rewarding if water is a healing element for you. Planting a memorial tree is the easiest additional touch to your memorial garden. You will want to be sure that the tree will grow properly in your zone and that you have enough space around the tree for it’s full size. I am particularly fond of maples for their beautiful fall foliage and the American Linden tree for its beautiful shape. We recently planted two Autumn Blaze Maples to replace a fallen oak and I like to say that when my children play in the fallen leaves that they are playing with their angel brother. My mom prefers Japanese Maples and has two in honor of both my son and her mom in her yard.
There are many personal choices involved in creating a memorial garden. From the initial planning to the ongoing maintenance, each decision should help you design a safe and comforting space. Sometimes it is best to start with a small garden with room to grow through the years, ensuring that you can make changes and additions as needed.
Follow my Pinterest Board, The Space Between Us, for more memorial garden ideas and please share your favorite flowers and plants in the comments.