Growing through grief: The Grief Garden community event emerges in Reading

Julia Mallory didn’t set out to become a community grief worker. The death of her eldest son Julian in 2017 changed that as she began to process her loss in public ways that resonated with others. Now for the last six years, she has been sharing her experiences with loss in an effort to demonstrate that it is okay to acknowledge grief and to talk about it.

As a multidisciplinary artist, she develops creative and compassionate healing experiences, her latest of which includes The Grief Garden, an event held Saturday afternoon at the GoggleWorks Gardens located across from the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.

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Mallory says the purpose of The Grief Garden is connect with members of the community who may live with perpetual and persistent grief due to experiences with gun violence, mass incarceration, belonging, isolation, and other factors. “Part of the purpose of The Grief Garden is to provide a nourishing and nurturing space for people to come and acknowledge their grief, and to be in community with other grievers.”

Release and Flow with C. Woods.

“I think a lot of times people think loss is a one time event and then it just goes away. But as many grievers know, loss is something that stays with us, changes and shifts with the seasons over time. Today we wanted to provide a space where people could come acknowledge the grief but also receive tangible opportunities to process their grief as well as leave with resources and tools to help them on they’re healing journey” said Mallory.

Medicine Making with Dominique Matti: Herbal tea blending.

The GoggleWorks Gardens is managed by Tiana Zabala, whom Mallory met in 2020 at “Everything is Love”, an event hosted by DearRDG. For Zabala, the GoggleWorks Gardens is more than a place to grow food, it’s a place of self healing. “Although our primary goal is to grow food, we also want to grow the community. I feel like this program really elevates what we do here.”

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Saturday’s event offered attendees a place to learn how they might move grief through their body as a way to soothe their nervous system. Community members also learned how to make their own herbal tea blend and had the opportunity to remember their loved ones through a craft activity at The Grief Garden’s community altar. Some, wanting less interaction, simply sat in the garden to reflect.

The Grief Garden’s community altar.

Mallory’s latest book Survivor’s Guilt, is an archive of survivorship that chronicles generational grief through photographs, poetry, and prose. Learn more about Mallory:

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