Stepping Stones: Creative Activities To Heal Chaos

healing overcoming loss overcoming tragedy resiliency Feb 13, 2017

Funny thing about tragedy, it often makes the creative mind wake up. Suddenly your thoughts are not the same as they were yesterday. Your brain comes alive with activity. It recalls memories, heightens imagination, and in a flash, you view life through different eyes. Your life is in chaos and your mind cries out to restore peace and harmony. It never rests.

On the night of my son’s death, exhausted, I lay down on the couch and closed my eyes. I wrapped myself into a ball and sought comfort in a cocoon of sadness. I heard only the din of voices from all of those who gathered in our home to support us through that tragic day.

My brain suddenly came alive. It awakened a compartment of memories, long since forgotten. The projector in my mind was an endless Playlist of Garrett’s life. It was as clear as if the events happened yesterday. I saw him as a baby, crawling in front of the shiny brass chest, amused by his own image. I could hear his voice in my head when he first learned to talk as his first word, “kitty” sputtered from his lips in delight. The memories were vivid with colors and smells, and raw emotion.

It felt as though I could touch him and actually hear his voice, so real and yet so unsatisfying because reality would abruptly hit me hard… my beautiful boy was gone from my arms forever. And then, I’d feel tears falling from my eyes, but my voice had no sound. I was afraid to cry out because it might erase the pictures in my head. If I could just have stayed there, in that moment, that dreamy state where I was with him. That was the only place my heart wanted to be.

In the days that followed, I shared my days with the reality of life and the dream state of memories. My mind had never been so active. It was the beginning of awakening to creating a world where I had to feel and embrace life in other ways. My mind was capable of so much more than I thought! It was a transition I didn’t expect from loss.

How often have you heard artists and writers say some of the best work of their lives was born out of suffering? It can be the catalyst for your creative world waking up.

I found great comfort in something the Zen Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said. He compared death to a cloud in the sky. When it disappears, it doesn’t mean the cloud has died. The cloud continues in another form like rain or snow.

If you look up to the sky and the cloud is no longer there, the sky is just showing you a new way of looking at the cloud. Don’t be sad, the cloud is now rain that waters your garden.

So now you must plant a garden and watch the flowers grow. When you see the flowers in full bloom, you gather them and make a bouquet for your kitchen table.

The next day you can photograph them or paint them. Frame your photograph or painting.

The garden I created for my son, Garrett’s Garden, and hang it on your wall and know that every time you look at it, it will remind you of the beauty of your child in a new form.

Do you see how you are the creator of your future, now?

If you’re struggling with a difficult challenge, loss, or tragedy, you will never be closer to God and creativity than you are right now. I call it the “miracle of creativity” borne from the troubled mind.

I often think about who I was as a little girl and how even a finger painting left me feeling as though I’d done something remarkable. People say, “Oh no, I’m not creative.” But look at your childhood. A popsicle stick transformed into a stick puppet was hours of fun, and a bucket of sand became a sand castle for a fairy tale.

It doesn’t matter how good you thought it was, or what others thought. Your memory of doing it may have been jaded by teachers’ grades or comments from others, but none of that matters now. Whatever you create now is perfect because God is compelling you to soothe the upheaval in your mind.

When my son died, I created my rose garden during my bereavement. It brought me a place of comfort and peace, taught me about the cycles of life, and became a memorial to my child.

I also found creativity at the ceramics studio where I painted bowls, pitchers, and platters with roses. I often took my children to the studio, and they, too, came alive with artistic ability. Everyone received hand-painted gifts that year.

I painted this on a day when memories flooded my emotions. It brought me peace

Today, I painted flowers on a glass jar. I saw something similar in a catalog, so I just made my own version of it. It made me happy.

While the critical thinking of your left brain tells you that sadness is everywhere and can never be any different, your right brain, the creative side, is screaming that it needs to create peace and harmony in new ways. Whether you express words in a journal, paint on a canvas, tend a garden, paint a room, or create new recipes, anything creative will help soothe the biochemistry in your brain.

Recently on Hay House Radio, I heard Dr. Christiane Northrup (internationally known for her empowering stance on women’s health and wellness) say that creativity is a powerfully important therapeutic tool. It’s as important to your well-being as exercise and a healthy diet.

As your creativity and your creations evolve, you will recognize your loss or challenge is represented in new forms. In my son’s death, I gave him life in the birth of his story in my book, How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen. I chose to write about him in hopes that my story will help people like you get through the worst time in your life, whether it be the loss of your beautiful child, the loss of a loved one, a difficult divorce, financial struggles, or losing a home.

There’s a purpose in what you’re experiencing right now, and I urge you to resurrect creativity to help you through it. Your purpose will be unveiled and become your guiding light into the next part of your life.

For me, my purpose in experiencing the loss of my beautiful son gave him everlasting life in allowing me to help others…and for that, I know he is with me forever.

Is there something that you do that brings you joy? Think with your child's heart. It’s there, trust me. Create it and send me a picture! I’ll post it!

Stepping Stones: Creative Activities To Heal Chaos

  • Art is a very powerful way in which to process memories, challenges, and feelings. It gives you an opportunity to work with senses such as touch, sight, and feeling. Try an art class where you feel no pressure to be perfect. Go to a local ceramics studio where you can learn to work with clay or paint. Working with your hands and painting allows you to explore shapes and colors.
  • Photography brings instant pleasure. With the ease of digital cameras and cell phones today, there are so many options to create beautiful works of art. Look into programs like iPhoto and Instagram for many creative ways to publish and print.
  • Music is another outlet for creative expression. Music tunes the heartstrings and opens up sensory emotions to feeling life in a new way. Sing, if you like to sing. Dance if you like to dance. Play the piano, or learn a new instrument. You will be surprised how your brain is open to music because it soothes the soul.
  • Create Playlists of music in iTunes. Music offers a way to instantly transform the mood and can change your state of being. Create Playlists for different feelings. I have lists that make me happy, a list for my tears, a list for dancing, a list for reflecting, and a list to help me power up to face the day.
  • Writing is a powerful tool of expression and healing. Start a blog about your journey or a subject that inspires you. Write poetry about your feeling
  • Begin the book you’ve always wanted to write. Now is the time to tell your story. Besides it being a great tool for your own healing, others will benefit from reading about your grief journey. You can choose to publish or not. This is for your recovery. My book, How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen, is my tribute to healing after the loss of my beautiful son. In his death, I gave him life and legacy by using it to help others heal.

I urge you to find your creative gifts and you’ll find a valuable tool to redirect your sadness, challenges, and frustrations into clarity, peace, acceptance, and yes, even joy. I promise, borne out of your creative spirit is a new life waiting to unfold.

Share your stories of creativity with me. I would love it.

Sometimes our dreams never get going unless someone is in our camp guiding us and holding us accountable. 

Julia Spence: Thanks for giving us information that will help us soar. My desire for you this year is that as you give into the lives of others may help come for you from placed you never dreamt or imagined. May new doors open this year for you to share your story. May your words bring healing into the lives of parents who have lost children May they move from grief to celebration of their children's lives.

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