Guest post by Matt Presnall
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Grief and loss affect everyone differently. Some people internalize their pain, choosing to return to their normal day-to-day activities as quickly as possible. Others find it difficult to go through even the most mundane routine activities—and for weeks or months after their initial loss. Because no one can know how the death of a loved one will affect them until they experience it, it’s understandable that you might be surprised by the form your grief takes.
Most people already know the value of holding a funeral or memorial service, or of seeking professional therapy when things get too rough, but there are also several smaller ways you can process your grief. Whether the tried-and-true approach hasn’t worked, or if you’d like to honor your loved one in a unique and lasting way, here are three creative ways to process your grief.
1) Take Up a Creative Hobby
Even if you’ve never touched a paintbrush or taken a picture that wasn’t a selfie, a creative outlet might be the perfect outlet for your emotions. Creative pursuits and strong emotions have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. For as long as cultures have been mourning their dead, they’ve been singing songs, painting pictures, and holding ceremonies. Not only do these activities help commemorate those we’ve lost, but the act of creating them provides a solace to those who are left behind.
It’s likely that you’re feeling very adrift right now; the life you once led will never be the same again, and all those activities that used to bring you comfort might feel hollow. That’s why a new creative hobby is ideal. If you’ve always wanted to write your memoirs but never had the guts to put a pen to paper, try journaling your feelings in book form. If you’ve longed to pick up a paintbrush and try your hands at watercolor, sign up for a class or take an online tutorial. Even something like learning a new instrument or scrapbooking old photos can be a great way to work through your emotions. This is especially true if there’s some connection between your creative outlet and the deceased. By finding something new to enjoy and look forward to, you might find that other aspects of your grief aren’t as sharp as they used to be.
2) Take Care of Others
Grief tends to be a very personal process that causes you to look—and feel—inward. This is perfectly natural, since your loss is one you feel on a deep, personal level. Although reflecting on your loved one and examining your own feelings can be helpful, it can also be the cause of much of your pain. After all, the more time you spend inside your own head, the less likely you are to find a way out of it.
That’s why you should consider volunteering for a cause that was important to the deceased (or is important to you). There’s nothing like focusing on other people’s problems as a way to forget your own. It doesn’t matter whether you find a huge campaign to support for hours every day, or if you simply bake cookies and take them to the neighbors on your street. These acts of kindness can open new doors, help you make new friends, and provide an outlet for your grief.
3) Build a Unique Memorial
Most memorials take the form of gravesites, cremation urns, or benches donated to a public park. By putting up a literal space to mourn, you can indulge in expressions of your grief and maintain a physical tie to your loved one.
However, if you live in a different city than the deceased or don’t have the money for a grand memorial, you could be lacking this physical tie. That’s why creating your own unique, personalized memorial might be a good idea. This can take on virtually any form you’d like. If you’re tech-savvy, you can create a memorial website that others can visit. If you’re a gardener, a tree or flower bush planted in the deceased’s name can make all the difference. And if you’re constantly traveling for work, even something like a worry stone you carry in your pocket or a special piece of engraved jewelry might work. Don’t be afraid to put your own unique spin on things. There’s no rule that says a memorial has to be flowers and a headstone.
No matter what form your grief takes, it’s important to address your feelings head-on. As we always counsel at iMortuary, make sure you reach out and seek professional help if you suspect that your feelings of loss have become a danger to yourself or others.
Heather is a teacher, poet, writer, artist, and most of all, mother of three. Her two boys inspire joy in her life and writing. Heather's eagerly awaited daughter was stillborn in October of 2017, which focused her creative energy on grief and healing. She created and maintains CharlottesPurpose.com, a website dedicated to dealing with grief positively.