40% of people believe gardening has 'saved them from grief'

26 Apr 2024
A close-up of a lavender shrub

Our new research shows the profound impact of gardening and nature on the grieving process.

The findings, set to be showcased through the launch of our Grief Kind Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, reveal that 40% of people who have been bereaved credit gardening with 'saving them from their grief'.

The survey highlights that doing practical activities such as gardening offers many people emotional support when grieving. In fact, approximately 38% of bereaved people find comfort in gardening, while others turn to sewing, baking, and DIY as hobbies to help them navigate their grief.

Two fifths (40%) of people even go as far as saying that gardening has ‘saved them from their grief’, with over half of people (51%) finding that gardening helps keep their loved one's memory alive.

Furthermore, over half (56%) of respondents believe gardening gives them a sense of routine and purpose during their grieving process. Interestingly, younger generations are particularly reliant on gardening for routine while grieving; 77% of 16–24-year-olds said it gave them structure, far exceeding the 48% of older respondents, 55 and above, who felt the same.

The broader benefits of nature in the grieving process are also significant, with three-quarters of bereaved people agreeing that nature helps heal (73%), and over two thirds (68%) find that being in nature helps people who are grieving. Specific natural elements like fresh air (35%), the warmth of the sun (32%), and the sound of birds (32%) particularly resonate when processing grief.

When considering different elements of gardening, the survey reveals how flowers play a crucial role in evoking memories of relatives, with over two thirds (37%) finding this to be the case, with roses (42%), daffodils (15%), and sunflowers (13%) topping the list.

The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden at the upcoming RHS Chelsea Flower Show, designed by award-winning designer Katherine Holland, aims to further explore and validate these findings through a sensory garden. The garden design has already elicited feelings of peace (58%) and calm (52%) in respondents, underscoring the therapeutic potential of green spaces and nature.

Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at Sue Ryder, said: "Fortunately with grief being so unique to each person there are many ways people can meaningfully engage with it. This research suggests gardening and being in nature can help provide comfort while navigating this difficult time.

“Gardening can give those who have been bereaved an outlet for their emotions and seeing a garden grow can remind us that life continues even though someone has died. Being in nature offers ample space to reflect, away from the distractions of daily life, offering solace in the quiet beauty of your surroundings, allowing you to process your thoughts more effectively.”

Katherine Holland, garden designer of the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show said: “For the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden, I am creating a safe and sensory sanctuary for visitors to sit within in the beauty of nature, whilst encouraging them to either share their own experiences of grief or have a moment of reflection.

“I found from my own experiences of grief that I needed a green space to reflect and sit with my feelings. Through this garden, I wanted to emulate this and with the layout give visitors the feeling that they are being given a ‘green hug’.

“I hope the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden will encourage people to start conversations around grief and raise awareness of Sue Ryder’s bereavement support services, as well as encourage people to find a place of solace in nature to help them to learn to live with grief.”

Alice Taylor, whose mum was cared for at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice and accessed the charity’s Online Bereavement Counselling commented: “Mum loved all flowers especially colourful ones! At the end of her life, she told us how much she loved freesias and we then incorporated these into her funeral, both my sister and I always think of Mum when we see them or find candles with a freesia scent. She loved the agapanthus and lavender in the garden at the Duchess of Kent too.”

The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden is sponsored by Project Giving Back, the unique grant-giving charity that funds gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden will be on display from 21st May – 25th May at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

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Camilla Flint's painting of the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden, showing two people surrounded by flowers and grass
Sue Ryder at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden will aim to start conversations around grief at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024.
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