To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.Audrey Hepburn
Sam and I have been very busy in the garden the last week or so. When we moved into our house last Summer there were lots of beautiful plants in the garden that we had no idea what to do with! We did a bit of pruning, weeding and admiring and then over the Autumn and Winter slowly let it get overgrown.
But with Springtime arriving with some much needed sunshine (although maybe not this week 🥶🥶🥶) we cracked on to try and get the garden back to its former glory- albeit in a much more low-maintenance way!!
This is the first time we know we’ll be in a house for a long time so can invest in its future. It got me to thinking about how gardening really does feel like a metaphor for living with grief.
I spent hours on my hands and knees last weekend pulling out weed after weed, in the same way that I feel I have spent months trying to remove the negative thoughts that surround Etta’s life. Because that’s the thing with weeds- if left unchallenged they can suffocate the beautiful blooms that are trying hard to grow and reach the light.
Firstly, I’ve tried to get rid of the weeds of guilt that surround Etta’s life. Did I spend enough time with her? Should we have put her through all of those surgeries? Should we have refused to stop life support? Would things have been different if we were there on the morning of her cardiac arrest? I have to remember that she was so loved and my guilt is only because of all this love I have for her.
I’ve tried to get rid of the weeds of feeling like a victim and focussing on all that’s gone wrong rather than all that’s gone right. I started counselling last week and we were discussing whether I had experienced any trauma or grief before losing Etta and my miscarriages and I answered that no I hadn’t. How fortunate am I to be able to say that? It remains that life is unfair- so much of it is outside of our control and terrible things happen to so many people. However, when I look at my life I feel beyond lucky.
I’ve been pulling out the weeds of resentment or jealousy for those who seemingly breeze through conceiving, growing and birthing healthy babies. I don’t know their stories or their struggles- they’ve probably got weeds of their own, even if they’re not child related. Because the thing about gardens, is there will always be weeds at some point!
And I suppose the hardest weed for me is the ‘What if’ weed. I suppose this one isn’t always a weed, sometimes it’s a beautiful flower that offers me glimpses of a possible future in which Etta lived. But most of the time, it’s a weed that drags me into the past- reliving and obsessing over what went so wrong. I can’t say that I’ve eradicated this weed completely- I think this will be a stubborn weed that keeps reappearing (like my nemesis bind weed). I’ll always feel it’s unfair that Etta died because it is unfair. No child should die.
And weeds do grow back. I noticed this morning that some weeds were already growing back again in the beds that I painstakingly removed them from last weekend. You can’t just expect these feelings to be dealt with and put in a neat little box- they will always reoccur and I suppose that is just a fact of life. But I always think it’s worth working at- so those beautiful flowers in your life are what get to flourish, rather than weeds.
And in some respects we get to choose what grows in our own garden- we can sow the seeds that we want to see in our lives. At the weekend, I planted some sunflowers seeds for Etta and some ‘bee bombs‘ in memory of bumblebee and now it’s just a waiting game.
I look at the brown soil and can’t imagine what the ground will look like in the Summer- sometimes it is hard to imagine a patch of land that will be filled with colour and beauty but we sow the seeds regardless. Even though we don’t really know what we’re doing, we hold onto hope that these little seeds we plant faithfully turn into something we can get great joy from.
As a family, I feel like we are really focussing this year on sowing those seeds of hope and trying to imagine a life full of beauty and colour for ourselves. Not one where the weeds are blocking out the sunlight. And we are not striving for a wonderful garden in spite of losing Etta. Her seeds are sown into every corner of this garden. The garden is not in spite of her but because of her.
I never thought I’d be one to believe in signs but I can’t help but be reminded of her everywhere we look in the garden. Whenever I weed the front garden, a brazen little robin always comes right up to me and sits in the bed I’m working in. I can’t help but laugh at how close it gets and how much it stares! And every time Ezzie and I speak about Etta together in the garden (or up on Etta’s hill) we always spot a single bumblebee buzzing nearby even when it’s cold outside! It’s very strange but it always makes me smile anyway.
I’m praying that this Springtime can be filled with hope and happiness for you and your family too. Even if choosing hope and optimism feels impossible after all that has happened because I understand that sometimes it really does. I hope the symbol of the garden can be a reminder that sometimes hope can triumph over experience and that the very act of planting those seeds of hope can be a very courageous act indeed.