Marvelous! Voices — Yardwork Therapy

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By Trieneke Self

It was mid-July, 98 degrees and sticky hot, but I kept working with determination as I gripped my “Arkansas rock bar,” lifting the heavy steel pole as high as I could and aiming at the hard dirt covering the bottom of the hole. Sparks flew and the pole clanged sharply, jarring me as it hit the unseen rock lodged below the surface. I had to laugh—I’d already filled two wire cages with large rocks of various sizes. Of course, there were more rocks! This is how one digs in the dirt, or gardens, in North Arkansas!

I had spent every day I could outside planting flowers and shrubs, landscaping our yard with flower beds and paths, and now I was making a sunken fire pit surrounded by a circular patio. This was more than gardening and landscaping—working in my yard was my grief therapy.

Trieneke’s “yardwork therapy” project.

My sister, Della Scott, and I had lost our precious 82-year-old mother in January of that year. Together we emptied her house, shedding many tears as treasures evoked memories. Then, before we put the house on the market, we sold it to a woman who walked across the street and asked if we were having a garage sale!

After Mom’s house sold, the enormous sadness of grief enveloped me. I felt as gray and dreary as the winter skies, and as barren as the naked trees. Eventually the dark days of winter turned to spring and my heart was lifted as buds, flowers and leaves sprang forth throughout my garden. Everything was coming back to life after looking dead for so long. Bulbs broke through the soil while redbud and dogwood trees once again bloomed in all their beauty.

As a grief support group facilitator for 23 years for Hospice of the Ozarks, I knew much about the process of grief, and I realized that what I knew didn’t take away the pain. My early emotional grief was easing, and now adjusting to life without Mom was the focus of my days. Working in the yard was what my mom enjoyed. She would say with her Dutch accent, “Isn’t it purdy?” when she’d point out something she had done in the yard. I found that I felt close to her as I worked in my yard on all of my outdoor projects. Early mornings till late afternoons I created pathways and flower beds, and finally finished the fire pit and patio.

Was it hard work? Yes, but work that helped me move from a time of sorrow and loss to a place of peace and thankfulness.

So today, in addition to adjusting to my loss, I am able to enjoy my beautiful yard and garden, the fruits of my yardwork grief therapy, and I can almost hear my mom saying, “That’s real purdy, Honey.” As a bonus, after digging so many holes with my trusty Arkansas rock bar, I have enough rocks to make a three-foot-high rock wall around our place! Next project? Maybe, unless you need some rocks! M! April/Mary 2017




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