by Karla Helbert
The ninth coping strategy is “Make Something”
It doesn’t matter whether you think you are creative or not. You are.
When you’re living with heart-crushing grief, just figuring out how to get out of bed is a creative endeavor. I talk to people a lot about being creative in grief and how helpful it can be. When I teach workshops or do retreats, we do all sorts of creative things in our grief. And people always say, “I’m just not creative,” or “I’m not an artist,” or “I can only draw stick figures.” Stick figures can do some really cool things, actually. But the point is that creating something is often not what you think it is.
Learning to live with the heartbreak of grief is an incredibly creative thing: every single day you are figuring out how to re-create your life. Using these coping strategies here in Anne Moss’s blog is a way to be creative in your grief.
Today’s strategy is about creativity, but it is also a directive: Make something.
When we make something, anything, we are being creative. We are creating something that wasn’t there before.
After my son died, I realized that I used to think I knew a lot of things. Once his death occurred, though, I understood that I know almost nothing. I had no idea what to do. Since I had no idea what to do, I started to do all sorts of things. Some of what I did took my mind off my grief; some of it took me straight into the middle of it. But I knew that I had to DO something.
I felt an urge to create things. I started doing all kinds of making. I painted, I collaged, I wrote—a lot—I re-finished furniture, I made wire sculptures, I took a pottery class, I danced, I baked things, I made a scrapbook. You can do any of those things and more.
Anything that you make that was not there before you made it is an act of creation. It might be an amazing dinner, a garden, a bench, a letter, a painting, a scarf, a novel, a sculpture, a photograph, a collage, a quilt, an ornament for the tree, a poem, a film, a doodle, a cupcake, a sand castle, a scrapbook…we could keep adding on to this list.
There is nothing that cures death. There is nothing that will cure grief.
But creation is the antidote to destruction. And when your entire life, your entire conception of the Universe has been destroyed, creation can be the antidote to destruction.
We can’t fix the things that have gone so terribly wrong, and a lot has gone so very wrong. But when we create, we feel just a bit different, the energy inside us is changed just a bit. When we really get into the zone of what we are making and creating, our bodies, minds and hearts can experience the tiniest bit of respite, even calm, possibly even peace.
And most of the time, whatever we are making in our grief has something to do with our grief, with our love for our beloved we are missing, with our newfound state of how things are. So, then, the act of making and creating helps us to be connected to them, to continue to grow our never-ending relationship to them and with them.
What we create can help us to understand ourselves and our new circumstances maybe the tiniest bit more. We can look at what we’ve created and have the experience of a new way of seeing ourselves and our own experience. This is creative.
Creation is the antidote to destruction. Make something today.
Make something ideas
Anyone can do at least one of these.
- Paint. Just pick out colors that seem to speak to you and put them on a piece of paper or a canvas.
- Draw. Take a pencil and make swooping, swirling shapes on a page and then color them in.
- Take pictures of things that seem to represent how you feel.
- Make a collage. Use photos or magazine cut outs. Have it represent a tribute to your beloved, or let it show how you are feeling on the inside. Do both of those things.
- Make ornaments for the tree.
- Make soap. Or Candles. Or home-made paper.
- Do a self-portrait. Do it in paint or ink or clay or mud or crystals or create a pizza that looks like how you feel.
- Create a playlist of songs that is the soundtrack for your relationship with your beloved.
- Create a playlist that is the soundtrack for your grief journey.
- Write a letter to your beloved.
- Write a letter to your grief.
- Write a letter to yourself.
- Write down your thoughts.
- Dance. Choose a song that represents how you feel right now. Close your eyes and let your body move in whatever ways it feels like moving.
- Bake. Share the things you bake with others.
- Plan a memorial garden for your beloved in your own backyard.
- Plant it this Spring.
- Make lists. Make a list of the things you hate about this grief crap. Make a list of the things that have helped you, even for a second, through this journey. Make a list of the people who have been there for you. Make a list of the things you love about the person you are missing.
- Go to the grocery store and pick out colorful things in the produce section. Go make a salad or some other interesting dish with the stuff you pick out.
- Go on walks and notice how many colors you see.
- Pick up interesting rocks on your walk and go home and make a design with the rocks.
- Close your eyes and wait for something to show up in your mind’s eye. Whatever it is, write 3 sentences about it. Draw it or paint it.
- Get a box of crayons. Pick 3 colors that represent how you feel right now. Draw a circle or a heart on a piece of paper and fill it in with those colors any way you want. You can add colors or change it any way you feel like.
- Play an instrument. Nobody is listening. Just play.
- Go to a thrift shop and find a piece of furniture you like and refinish it.
- Cook a meal of your beloved’s favorite foods.
- Cook something you’ve never made before.
- Create a film festival of movies with a theme about your beloved. Host a viewing party for just you or for friends and loved ones.
- Take lessons for some creative and interesting thing you’ve always wanted to do.
- Take lessons for some creative and interesting thing you never thought about doing before.
- Just go make something.
Post pictures of what you make on Facebook and tag us!
Karla Helbert is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), internationally certified yoga therapist, (C-IAYT), registered yoga teacher (RYT), award winning author, and a Compassionate Bereavement Care Provider certified through the MISS Foundation, the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Trust. and the Center for Loss & Trauma. Counseling and supporting those living with traumatic grief and bereavement is her main focus of work. Her book, Yoga for Grief and Loss is below.