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From the time I was a small child I enjoyed anything that involved creativity. I enjoyed coloring, drawing, painting and arts and crafts. Every year for my birthday and Christmas, my aunt and uncle would buy me some type of craft kit. I could hardly wait to open the present from them because I was anxious to begin a new project.

Looking back I realize that any type of creative activity caused my mind to be very present which had a very calming and peaceful effect on me. It would immediately put me in a better mood and I felt accomplished when I finished my project.

Art has continued throughout my life but has taken many shapes and forms as I have gone through each chapter of my life. As a teen, my art teacher got me interested in working with charcoal and pastels. I also became more adept at crochet during this time.

For some reason, as I became older, married and became a mom, I put aside my charcoal and pastels and my yarn and hook. I took up cross stitching when I was pregnant with John because I found a cute cross stitch baby blanket to make for him. I loved cross stitch and did this for many years. I would still be doing this today, if not for my poor eye site.

When John was very young, I began to sew. My grandmother gave me her sewing machine and I began to make Halloween costumes for John and clothes for myself. When I finally had another successful pregnancy, I sewed baby clothes for my youngest son, Christian.

Somewhere during both of my sons’ childhoods, I took up crochet again. I was doing quite a bit of cross stitch and crocheting but when I moved in with my mother, I had to give up sewing as there was really nowhere to sew where the mess would not disturb her.

When I finally got my own place, I took up sewing and started two shops on Etsy. My one shop consists both of sewn and crocheted items. It has home decor, women’s and children’s accessories and dolls and stuffed animals. My other shop is mostly sewn items which are accessories for men and boys. This brings me much pleasure and has been very therapeutic for my grief.

After John crossed over I began to have a very strong urge to take up my pastels again. There were two very good reasons for this, which I was unaware of at the time. The first reason, which I discovered immediately, was that painting pictures with chalk pastels help me to cope with the pain of my grief. I found that if I drew what I was feeling it would help me to be more aware of my emotions. The above piece I did seven months after John crossed over. It was around 3:00 am and my pain was so intense and raw that I could not sleep. I sat in my bed crying and howling as most grieving mothers do. I picked up my sketch book and pastels without knowing what it was I was going to create.  This pastel was born. When I was finished, I felt calmer and more at peace and was able to sleep.

Creativity comes in many forms. Most of us think of it as visual art, performing art or crafting. There is so much more to creativity than that. Chances are that whatever your passion is, is creative to you. This could including cooking, gardening, sports, etc. We need to be more open minded when we are thinking about creativity.

Although many therapists do not use things such things as cooking and sports in their therapy, they are helpful to the individuals themselves when at hoe, which is why I have listed them above. I need to be clear that my opinions are my pinions solely and I am not an expert; however, there are good reasons why many psychiatric hospitals and therapists use visual art therapy.

  • Self-discovery. At its most successful, art therapy triggers an emotional catharsis (a sense of relief and wellbeing through the recognition and acknowledgement of subconscious feelings).
  • Personal fulfillment. The creation of a tangible reward can build confidence and nurture feelings of self-worth. Personal fulfillment comes from both the creative and the analytical components of the process.
  • Empowerment. Art therapy can help individuals visually express emotions and fears that they were never able to articulate through conventional means, and give them some sense of control over these feelings.
  • Relaxation and stress relief. Chronic stress can be harmful to both mind and body. It can weaken and damage the immune system, cause insomnia and depression, and trigger a host of circulatory problems (e.g., high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and cardiac arrhythmia). When used alone or in combination with other relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, art therapy can be a potent stress reliever.
  • Symptom relief and physical rehabilitation. Art therapy can also help individuals cope with pain and promote physiological healing by identifying and working through anger and resentment issues and other emotional stresses.
Even if you feel that you are not talented in visual art, this will still be beneficial to your healing process. the point is not to create a masterpiece, but to help to heal and express yourself in a healthy manner. Do not be self-conscious, merely pick up a medium and go with the flow.
I have found when dealing with  my grief, that there are times I really am not sure what it is I am feeling. My memories of my son and even of that very day he took his life come flooding back. Even the events of planning his memorial service are relived and are very traumatic. As stated in an article on goodtherapy.com (http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-art-heals-grief-0327125/), art has helped me to contain and identify what I am feeling. I regain my focus through art which makes me aware of what I am feeling and why. When we have a better understanding of what and why we are having these feelings, we can then address them, face them head on and do whatever it is we need to do for ourselves to begin to heal. After I have created something, I am then a bit more calm, peaceful and have a sense of purpose (especially when I am working on my Etsy shops), I am more confident and feel better about myself,  and able to enjoy my memories of my son with less pain. We need to be able to get to the point where the memory of our loved ones who are in Spirit bring joy and not pain. When we reach this point, it is then that we can continue our relationship with them. Yes, it is different but it is a relationship, nonetheless. To me that is better than no relationship at all.  I will be discussing the many different ways in which we can maintain our relationships in a later blog post. – Michelle
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