Creativity and Grief
By Mollie Borgione, ATR-BC, CT
Believe it or not, grief and creativity have some things in common. They are both matters that many of us have little experience with and find difficult. (Though these last couple of years have given all of us greater exposure to grief and loss, as well as the necessity of using our creativity to survive these times.) Often, we keep both our grief and our creativity hidden. We may hide our grief because we want to appear strong to others or be strong for others, or we feel vulnerable in letting others see our real emotional selves. We also hide or don’t recognize our creative or artistic abilities because we think our ideas or skills are not good enough.
We live in a death-averse culture, and it is hard for many of us to acknowledge that death is a part of life. Therefore, discussions about death and grief are seldom had. Because of these things, participants who attend our Healing Arts art therapy grief workshops often worry that their grief is abnormal in some way. Attendees are educated about the various facets of grief, and group members offer support, normalizing grief and allaying fears. They learn that each person’s grief journey is unique, just as their relationship was with their loved one.
We also live in a culture that celebrates those who make art that is extremely valuable and worthy of critical acclaim. No wonder we feel shy about our creativity. Many of us can recall childhood art classes where we were not encouraged to follow our own creative ideas. Instead, we were expected to follow the lesson plan. Our art may have been ridiculed, and as a result, our creativity squelched. Many participants in Healing Arts workshops assure me and the group that they are not creative, lowering expectations for the art they will make. They nearly always impress the group and themselves in their creativity! We are ALL creative in our own way, we just need to give ourselves and each other permission.
In Healing Arts grief workshops, both your grief and your art are normalized, and your own creativity helps you navigate your grief. Participants in different stages of grief share their experiences of loss, their strength on the journey and their hope for the future. Attendees find that they are not alone in their deep feelings of sadness, remorse, love, regret, anger and gratitude. They can identify with and learn from each other’s grief experiences. It is humbling for me to watch a person come to their first workshop apologizing for their show of emotion, unsure of themselves and their art-making abilities, then over time learning to trust themselves in their grief process as well as in their creative process. Although art instructions and directives are given to participants, these are always secondary to the creative spirit inherent in everyone. Expressing yourself through your natural creative abilities allows you to open up to healing.
The Healing Arts program offers diverse projects throughout the year. The sessions provide grieving people with a creative outlet for their grief and are open to the community. The program is made possible by a project support grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.