Aim This innovative project aims to provide a therapeutic space that helps bereaved men meet together with the support of a trained counsellor and volunteer gardener by working and being on an allotment.
Background Following the successful application for funding from Hospice UK, this year-long pilot project uses nature both as a medium of communication and as a source of healing. There is no specific provision in our city or organisation for bereaved men to come together as a group therapeutically or gain peer support. It was identified that out of all individuals supported by the hospice bereavement service over a three year period (2014–2017), just 23% were men.
The use of allotments to rebuild lives was successfully pioneered by The Natural Growth Project (Linden & Grut, 2002) run by Freedom from Torture. An Ecotherapy Project successfully delivered support to bereaved people at Springhill Hospice (Maxwell, 2017) and research shows that allotment gardening can improve self-esteem, calm anger and ease depression (Wood, Pretty & Griffin, 2016).
The Allotment Group is working in partnership with a local community allotment project, PLOT22, and will provide six, 6-weekly groups with eight men in a group, where men can share their stories through working the allotment. Using nature as a metaphor gives clients an opportunity to access deeply held experiences of pain, loss and grief and to work on difficult feelings whilst the life cycle embodied in nature carries the promise of healing. The project is being evaluated using the outcome tool Adult Attitude to Grief (Machin, 2014).
The future There is a commitment to making this project a success and with the integration of user feedback, the aspiration is to continue with the Earthworks Group and introduce new groups for other under-represented groups such as bereaved LGBT people, children and families, pre-bereavement groups for carers and for those individuals living with a terminal illness (Kelly, 2016).