Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Dealing With Grief Through Flower Gardening

I may not have mentioned it but my lovely dad passed away at the turn of the year.
My parents were abroad visiting my maternal grandmother when this happened. A few months later my naani also passed away. It’s been a tough nine months. Bereavement can be seen from many different angles and is a process which one can’t put a time limit on. Recently following the tragic death of the husband of Ustadah Zaynab Ansari, Imam Zaid wrote a timely piece about death which is well worth a read. So too is this short piece by Imam Khalid Latif about losing someone close to you.

In this post I want to share specifically one approach which is helping me in dealing with this grief. And that is flower gardening. Both my naani and dad loved flowers.

I started gardening almost a decade ago to keep exercising my hands following the episode of arthritis and also because I realised that if I wanted to produce work on The Garden, it would help to spend time in it. This experiential learning has taught me several lessons over the years. For I believe that the signs are all around us – it is us who are unaware of them at times. As the saying goes: “God is at home, it’s we who have gone out.”

Since spring however, being in the garden has provided newer meaning. It has become a peaceful channel to process my grief. Nature has embraced me and given me security of mind. I have started to believe that there is a real symbiotic relationship between man and nature. There is mutual benefit to be derived.

Working with the earth has given me a sketchbook to illustrate my thoughts, anguish my fears and examine my insecurities. The soil which took millions of years to form is a testimony of time. It is a testimony of the miraculous Wisdom of God Almighty. It tells me the story of yesterday and shares with me the memories I hold deeply about my lovely dad and naani.

Unlike many people, I haven’t spent time and energies growing food. I have been growing flowers instead. I understand there must be great spiritual rewards in growing your own food and then consuming it. It must feel joyous to eat knowing the exact conditions under which the food was cultivated. However I don’t think that is for me right now. I feel one must have a great deal of respect with their environment in order to fully benefit from this association. It is not easily achieved and we risk losing divine grace if we simply see the patch as somewhere to grow food for our hungry bellies.

There is something quite amazing about waking up one morning and seeing a new flower open up which is not the same as seeing a carrot shoot up!

The blooms which plants offer are a heavenly reflection. The flowers have a mesmerising impact. Just look back at the Hydrangea post I did. What a sight! I have been thinking of people who don’t like flowers – what kind of heaven are they expecting? Bright hues offer us an insight into the Divine crafting of our Lord. So many different sizes and shapes of petals – each one delicately existing to provide pleasure and resources to us. Man is never as independent as he thinks; our reliance on these species to provide us with visual pleasure and reflection makes us very much dependent upon them. In the least we should show our gratitude to God Almighty.

It is often advised that children should be taught about death through plants. But I think us grown ups can really benefit from this too. Taking a seed and waiting for germination creates so many feelings: of anticipation, hope and excitement. When the first seedling leaf shoots up, there is greater elation and delight. And as one starts to pot on the babies into bigger pots with more nutrition, a sense of responsibility is felt. Soon with enough sunlight and water the plant becomes hardy and able to survive without much protection.

With the passing of time and changing seasons the plant reaches it’s potential, seeds and awaits it’s next phase in the great cycle of life. I thought it was child’s play until I tried it for myself: this cycle interacts with grief and produces something else. Perhaps it is called resilience, or submission, or understanding, or just witnessing the Power of God? 

It’s a something which I can’t explain in one single emotion or word. But from it leaps forth renewed energy, albeit momentary.

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