Child planting seeds in garden

Schools grow hope for bereaved children

This month we’re celebrating schools across Gloucestershire and Bristol who have been creating gardens filled with flowers and plants to help bereaved children with their emotions.

Over twenty primary schools across Gloucestershire and Bristol have taken part in ‘The Growing Hope Project’. This gardening initiative run by childhood bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish, aims to create a calm and supportive space for bereaved children.

These gardens that are sprouting up across the region’s primary schools provide a place for children who have experienced the death of somebody important. Their purpose is to connect children with others who have had similar bereavement experiences, access support and share understanding with one another. The gardens support children in understanding their change in life circumstances through nurturing and caring for their plants. Emma Tyer,  Project Creator and Manager of Growing Hope at Winston’s Wish, said “observing the changes that plants go through in their own growing life cycle helps children to understand the concept of life and death”.

We spoke to two of the children involved in the project and they shared their thoughts about their experiences of the garden. Billy, age 8,I like going to the Garden of Hope because it makes me think of my Nan, and I miss the hugs and kisses. I have grown sunflowers for her, and I am going to take them to her grave.”  Another pupil who found the Garden a place of comfort was Maisie, age 8 “When I have my lunch, I always go to the Garden of Hope to find the lavender as it was her favourite. I talk to her about school, and it makes me feel calm.“

The project provides emotional tools and activities to strengthen the understanding of grief and bereavement across school and local community. Laura Hewetson, Growing Hope practitioner at Winston’s Wish said Through the Growing Hope project, children can realise that they are not alone and that the many emotions we feel when grieving such as sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, fear, denial, disbelief, and confusion are part of the journey. It’s also important to give them a space to feel joyful and happy and remember that being able to laugh is also allowed. Using metaphors from nature, such as the weather and the seasons, to talk about emotions can really help with this.“

Alongside the therapeutic benefits of a place to grow plants and reflect on their special people, these gardens help grow their supportive network by spending time with other children who’ve experienced similar. The collaborative nature of the project helps children and their parents to better cope with their loss and reduces the experience of isolation that is often associated with being bereaved.

The project which is funded by local charitable trusts such as D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and The Foundation for Children, amongst others, have supported at least 74 children across the region, with an additional 50 children across Bristol in the last year alone. Pauline Getter, Leader and coordinator of The Growing Hope project at Wansdyke Primary said

We were so proud to have been part of Winston’s Wish Growing Hope project last year. We started the year with 10 children and through personal circumstances; the numbers sadly grew to 15.

Children grieve in a unique way and we give them time in our garden to grieve and share at their own pace. The Children themselves changed the name ‘Growing Hope’ to the Garden of Hope reflecting their safe space.

At Wansdyke we are blessed with grounds that allow the children to feel part of nature and this allows them to feel more connected to the surroundings and the rhythms of life. Where the children are encouraged to listen and support each other. Some of the work the children have produced show how they have matured in their grieving process and they are able to approach schoolwork in a more positive way.

Futura Academy are also fully supportive of our work with Winston’s Wish and the parents and carers have been so appreciative of this program, so much so they have provided equipment and plants and join in on our weekend work parties to prepare our grounds for planting.

The parents come here, out of school hours together with their children. Where the parents may find it difficult to talk about a lost loved one at home, here, they find the common ground of working together has allowed conversations to flow and it has helped parents and carers come to terms with their loss too.”

Growing Hope project

Growing Hope garden
Growing Hope Project

Find out more about getting involved in the Growing Hope project at your school.