Freedom to Grieve

Protecting grief from "closure," consumerism, politics, and other cultural distortions

Gardening for the Soul

When you lose your zest for life, how do you get it back?

One time when away from my office for four weeks, I failed to have anyone water the plants. When I came back, the plants were brown, shriveled up, and almost dead. I did not know if I could bring them back to their former vibrant selves, but I had to try. Having a tender heart for living things on the verge of death, I was not about to throw them away.

So I watered them. Then I began cutting. I cut off the longer parts of the hanging vines. I knew that the plant would have an easier time recovering when not hanging on to so much. I removed all the dead leaves. Then I removed the wilted ones that had no green in them.

The plants hung low, limp, and sad. I watered them some more a few hours later, but not so much that they would drown. And I made sure the sun could reach the fragile life.

I came back two days later. They looked a bit better but there were some new brown leaves. I took those leaves off and gave the plants more water. I put them in the sun and let them rest. They needed water, sun, and time.

A week later, I came into my office and noticed the plants looked better. Not whole, but better. The leaves that were left had filled out more. They perked up and had energy to reach for the sun. I gave them more water. And let them rest. The plants are shorter and thinner, but alive and growing.

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When our souls have wilted, we need to nurture them. Cut off the dead leaves and step back from the people and things hanging on that are not essential. Focus on the parts of your life that need your attention the most.

Drink water, eat well, get some sun, and rest. Give yourself time to heal, not expecting to return immediately to your former vibrant self. Take it slow. When you see that new bit of green, take hope and know you are growing.

 

Nancy Berns, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University and the author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us.

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