In the garden of my family home we have a gorgeous apple tree. My Dad calls the ‘Singing Ringing Tree’.

It’s a beautiful tree that flowers around April time with pink white blossoms and the greenest of leaves. All year round the tree has a number of different shaped and different coloured baubles on it. I only recently asked my Dad why he hangs baubles on the tree, and his answer surprised me.

Every year at Christmas, my Dad and I would visit my Mum’s grave along with my sister. Dad would take us shopping to choose a set of baubles and we would decorate a small Christmas tree to place at the end of the grave.

After Christmas had passed, my Dad would collect the tree to bring it home and look after it until the following Christmas. Rather than store the baubles from the tree or get rid of them, he would hang them onto the Singing Ringing Tree to remember all of the Christmases that have passed. In the summer months the tree looks stunning as the sunlight catches off the baubles and it blooms in it’s full glory. In the winter months the baubles are a reminder that another year has passed and soon the tree will collect more baubles.

We didn’t know that our Dad had the little ritual each year, but it makes sense. When you have to process the huge grief of losing someone you love so dearly, rituals connect us in to something that is bigger than us. Rituals help us to remember people who are no longer here.

In Play Therapy, we often use clay as a creative medium to help children deal with the loss of a loved one or a pet. We allow the child to create something to remember their loved one in clay, and we ask a parent to lay their creation down with the child in a special place in the garden or out in nature. Over time, the clay will disintegrate and go back into the soil – just as we do when we pass. Performing this ritual can give children a way to say goodbye and commemorate a loss and help them through the grieving process.

I asked my Dad what the Singing Ringing Tree meant to him, and he said ‘ the tree is very special to me as your Mum is so important. The tree helps me to remember her.’

I asked my Dad what else he does to remember, and he showed me all of the flowers and plants that connect him in to different memories – ones that he and my Mum bought together, pots from old houses that he has kept for over 30 years, flowers from his Dad’s garden… It turns out that my Dad has a whole garden full of memories! The advent of spring each year is a reminder of many years of love, laughter and tears, and a reminder that life goes on even when a difficult event has happened. These memories can give us the strength to carry on, and to remember the good times.

Reading Time: 3 minutes