Creating a Healing Memorial Garden

By: Rose Carlson

Many people enjoy gardening as a relaxing and comforting way to connect with nature, so creating a special memorial garden may be the ideal project for this spring. The planning process can give you something positive and creative to focus on at a time when you may have difficulty focusing on much else. Doing the manual work to prepare the soil (such as digging, tilling, etc.) may be a good physical outlet that many people need when they are grieving. Tending to a garden can be therapeutic and healing not only as you plan, dig, and plant, but also in the coming years…it will become a living tribute to your baby. Many parents do not have a cemetery or other special place to visit, so a garden in your yard will give you that personal sanctuary.  Plants need tender loving care to grow and thrive, and nurturing your garden over the years will give you a physical way to feel connected and to reflect upon the ways your baby touched your life.

Creating a quiet, relaxing outdoor retreat can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. Even if you only have a small corner, it is still possible to create a beautiful garden. If you have the space available, you may want to choose a spot that can be added to later. Your garden can be as small as a tree with a planting area surrounding it, or a large space you designate in your yard.

The ideas as to what types of plants and ornaments to include in your garden are endless, but here are some ideas to get you started:

*Choose a color theme. The color could be based on the gender of your baby, your favorite color, the color of the month your baby was born or due, or even the favorite colors of your other children or family members. If you have no preference, white represents purity and innocence and is a good choice for a garden created in a child’s memory.

*Make sure you choose plants and flowers that thrive in your area. You can check out books from the library or search the internet.

*Choose flowers that may have some meaning to your baby’s name…for instance, Sweet William, Jasmine, Rose, Lily, etc.

*If you want to add roses to your garden, there are many varieties with names such as Audrey Hepburn, Queen Elizabeth, etc., so you may be able to find a species that has a name like your baby’s name. There are also varieties of roses with names such as Baby Blanket Rose and Angel Face Rose.

*Choose plants that are specific to a certain time of year if that time of year is meaningful to you, whether it’s the season you became pregnant, the season your baby was born, the season your baby was due, or even your favorite season. For instance, if your baby was born or due in the spring, you may want to consider filling your garden with plants and flowers such as tulips, daffodils crocuses, and hyacinths that bloom in the spring. If fall is meaningful to you, choose fall-blooming flowers such as mums. If more than one season holds special significance, plan your garden to encompass them all. Again, the ideas are endless, and you can research on the internet to learn what plants and trees bloom during different seasons where you live.

*Sow a variety of plants and flowers that bloom during each season to get the maximum enjoyment from your garden.

*Include both perennials and annuals.

*Select plants based on specific meanings.

*Choose plants or add bird feeders to attract different types of birds or butterflies.

*If you have other children, consider letting them help pick out plants and flowers. It can be a wonderfully healing family project for everyone to work together both in the planning and the planting of your garden.

*Take photographs each year of the different plants in your garden and place them all together in one album. Over the years, this will become a permanent record of how your garden grows and evolves.

In addition to plants, there are other ways to personalize your garden. Many companies sell stepping stones, statuary, wind chimes, and other ornaments that can make your garden unique. If there is a special memento you have connected with, such as angels or butterflies, you can include items that will make your garden even more meaningful to you and your family. You may want to add rocks throughout your garden or surround it with a collection of stones. These can be purchased or collected from streams and lakes and can be a memorable way to personalize the garden if your family has a favorite spot to collect the rocks from. If you have other children, they may enjoy painting something special on rocks to scatter among the plants and flowers.

You may want to include a water fountain in your garden to add a serene, soothing atmosphere. You can find plans on the internet or purchase kits from home improvement stores. And don’t forget a bench or a chair. Finally, you may want to place landscaping lights to give it a peaceful feeling at night.

However much space you have to dedicate to a memory garden, it can become a place your family enjoys for years to come.

About Rose Carlson

Rose is the Program Director at Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support. She came to Share in 2002 as a volunteer and eventually joined the staff in 2004. She has a BS in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Her personal experience as a bereaved parent brings an invaluable perspective to her work. Rose manages the Share Memorial events, serves as an educator and is the Share Chapter coordinator.

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