Flowers as Panacea for Grief

PANACEA – Magical remedy or cure. Miracle drug. Wonder drug

sweet peas
Lisa’s bodacious bunch of sweet peas

I don’t know about you, but the most complicated and nagging emotion for me last year was grief. There was specific grief from the loss of people, in my case my father-in-law in April, and then my beloved aunt who died alone in an assisted living facility a few weeks later. And there was also more generalized grief, from the news of a vicious virus wreaking havoc on our world, with its fallout of mourning families, isolation and hunger. Many days I sat on the porch and cried.

As the virus raged in early spring I was flush in flowers, so like other growers I “pivoted” my business from selling to shops and florists, to selling directly from my farm. I quickly announced a no-contact pickup on my Instagram page and the cars began pulling up in the driveway. In the five years that I have been growing flowers I have never seen such intense interest in a simple paper-wrapped bouquet.

Lisa at Happy Road Farms
Lisa at Happy Road Farms

I thought I had understood the power of my blooms in years past as I handed off bouquets to CSA members or excited brides on their big day, but during the quarantine I noticed a shift in response to the flowers. The messages on social media said the flowers were giving people hope in a terrible time, bringing a much needed spot of joy, and even acting as medicine for beleaguered psyches. I received hand-written notes thanking me for growing such a valuable crop. The flowers were a panacea.

 I grow flowers. I ease grief. Flowers are medicine. Fleeting but potent medicine.  

The losses piled up on me last year; in-person school was cancelled, every event on my calendar was erased, and a few of my crops were a total bust. The daffodils bloomed too early due to a false spring and then were hit with frost. Gophers ate almost all the whole row of Dutch irises. I am not really sure what happened to the foxglove, but they just didn’t work.  And yet, like my customers the flowers that did bloom offered steady comfort, and relief from day after day of difficult circumstances.

sweet peas striped boots
Sweet peas. Striped boots. Putting a smile on our faces and sharing a sensory hug

I will never forget a warm afternoon last April when I went out the pea patch to pick a few stems. Almost overnight the sweet peas had exploded into a riot of candy colors and delicate fragrance. The patch was humming with giant bumblebees and as I made my way through the perfumed tangle, the peas caught on my hair and on my jacket. The flowers and bees were alive, and I was alive, and my family was whole and doing okay. Standing inside the pea patch I felt my gratitude return.

Spring at Happy Road Farms
Spring at Happy Road Farms

Sweet peas were the pandemic victory crop and they bloomed heartily so that I could share them with my customers and friends. The anemones were a little short-stemmed last spring but they were a joy to have in a bud vase on a windowsill.  I took pleasure in tucking the anemones along with shorty ranunculus, into paper cups and leaving them outside retirement homes and on our neighbors’ steps. We could all partake of a bit of this flower magic and begin healing in our own ways.

I leave 2020 with a new understanding of the value of flowers that are grown with love and integrity. I take fresh pride in my role as a flower farmer, a job that provides my community with beauty, comfort, and a reminder that nature endures. I see now that my flowers symbolize resiliency and hope, two qualities that are essential to a healthy human spirit.

 I grow flowers. I ease grief. Flowers are medicine. Fleeting but potent medicine.  

Lisa Thibodeau

Lisa Thibodeau is a writer, flower farmer and late bloomer. Five years ago she swapped a cubicle for her 1-acre backyard and created Happy Road Farm. She lives in an old house in Loomis, California with her husband, two teenagers, and way too many books.

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