While I was grieving

“Wow!” He was amazed at the vegetable plants I was showing him.   “When did you do all this?”

I was showing off my garden to my cousin-in-law as we waited for his wife to meet us for dinner. He’s good company, always polite and thoughtful, one of those people whose picture would be in Webster next to “nice guy.” He’s also a physician and so we often enjoy sharing medical stories we collect at work.

I pointed out each plant, telling him which ones we started from seed (the carrots, the basil and the tomatoes, though the latter two were gifted to us by a friend who started them from seeds) and which ones were seedling transplants (the rest- the squash, cauliflower, potatoes, peppers, onions and beans). I felt a little embarrassed because the squash plants were yellowed and scrawny. I would have removed them had not a huge yellow bulb been growing at the end of the dead-looking vine.

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Otherwise, it was a nice looking garden. It sat in a 8 x 12 foot patch, along our driveway, partially shaded by a tall, voluminous tree. Tall metal green posts lined it holding up black deer netting, giving the space an almost crib-like feel. Six rows of vegetables ran perpendicular to the driveway, each separated by rows of small rocks, cataloging the burgeoning plants.

I guided him around the corner of the garden to show him the side. The grass had a bit of a dip, putting the garden on the slightest slant. There on the side, piled on top of each other, were multiple fifty pound rocks stacked into a makeshift wall.  For three and four hour spurts, I used to sit in the dirt that would become my garden and dig with a spade, then a a shovel, then a pitchfork until I unearthed all the stones and mini-boulders that the Connecticut soil was secretly holding.  At the end of each day, the pile of rocks would grow and I had physical evidence of what I did each day.  My arms would ache, my back would by angry and my shoulders would spot a few new freckles as reminders of the hard labor I had put in.  It was a good mental distraction from the thoughts that consumed me at the time.

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“I dug them each up.”

I smiled as I saw him take in my handiwork.

“You dug them up? Yourself?”


“When did you do all this?” he asked again.

“While I was grieving.”

We wandered over to my flower garden. Like many bereaved mothers I know, I have a spot in my backyard dedicated to my dead child. I had wanted to put a garden by the white decorative fence ever since we moved in a year ago, but didn’t know what I wanted there. Now a lilac bush, a gift from my midwives, sat in the center. Salvia, peonies and other perennials surrounded it with buckets of colorful annuals interspersed between them. A small hand painted sign marked the edge, announcing “Mabel’s Garden,” a Mother’s Day gift from Chris.

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“Wow! You did all this too? When?”

“While I was grieving…”


10 thoughts on “While I was grieving

  1. This past fall was a period of grief for me. Shortly before it began, we bought a house a half mile in from the Pacific Ocean that had been untouched for almost 19 months.

    My husband and I spent 5-7 hours a day doing yard work (a perk of being writers who work from home). Many of those days I worked solo. My hub was beyond impressed with my hand and chainsaw skills, along with other tools.

    We set the goal of a “neutral” yard for 12 months, and it’s been met. On really angry days, I’d burn all that had been sawed. The actual fire with the fire within made me shake my head at times.

    Best to you and way to positively channel all of that “stuff.”

    • The angry days I spent digging up those huge rocks. I had enough angry days that for a while my wrists would hurt me from all the digging. SOunds like I could line a fire pit with my grief stones while you burned your grief in the center.

  2. I can really relate to this. Gardening and grieving seem to go well together, I love gardening, and I think I’ve come to need it – like you say, it’s a mental distraction, and you can see the evidence of what you achieve each day. I don’t know where I’d be without it; in the dark months where little else has brought meaning, all the hefting, digging, moving, growing, tending has given me reason for being. Someone visited our garden not long ago “I wish I had the time to do all this” he said. Oh how I wish I didn’t have the time, and I had my baby boy.

    May your garden contine to grow, and may Mabel’s garden flourish and bloom beautifully.x

    • thank you.

      The first months were snowy and cold and I remember thinking,w hen it gets nice out, it’ll get better. it didnt get better with the weather, but the warmth and the sun gave me more options (instead of sitting in front of the computer or tv) to work with my grief. gardening, yardwork and general labor were great outlets.

      how I wish you didnt have time to work on your garden either.

  3. Your garden is beautiful, and a lovely tribute to Mabel. I can really relate – Hugo’s death was in early spring, and weeds had taken over our garden. I took great pleasure in deweeding, and especially in clipping away at the neighbour’s ivy that had grown over our shared wall. It was great therapy! We planted lots of colourful flowers in tribute to Hugo, and paid special attention to getting flowers that are known for attracting butterflies and bees – which is where I believe Hugo’s spirit flies. x

    • thank you. I’ve always had a love for weeding and I’ve gotten really good at it now. What a lovely idea choosing plants and flowers for what they attract.

  4. Are you so attached to your Mabel Lilac Bush??? We have a Gideon Tree in our front yard and I promise you I literally pray for that tree to survive my utter lack of green thumbness because I think if it dies I will die with it!! I have never been so attached to a plant in all my life and it bothers me to no end that that Gideon tree has such a hold on me!!

    I love that you were strong enough to pull out huge rocks in your grieving. I was less constructive with mine, I just threw things and almost put a hole in my wall. Gardens are way better than holes in walls!

    • Hah! The lilac bush is surviving (not exactly thriving, but not dead yet). I worry more about a three foot bonsai tree my workplace gave me. They called it Mabel’s tree and I’m terrified I going to kill it! We dont have the best track record with plants. Somehow I’m more forgiving of my gardening skill- I figure mother nature plays a role there. But house plants are completely my responsibility. THe bonsai tree is fifty years old and needs a weekly bath (literally, in the bath tub in the winter. in the summer in a tub outside). So far, I have to say, it looks good. But i cringe at the idea of it dying. Mental note: dont give something that has to be kept alive to a babyloss mom ! (it was a very very sweet gesture though)

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