The Tangle of Grief & Gratitude…a creative prompt

Article written by Kara LC Jones of Grief + Creativity.

As part of preparing our course materials here at The Creative Grief Coaching Studio, I had the wonderful opportunity to do an interview with Dr. Melissa Flint who is a professor and clinician at Midwestern University.  She had so many great ideas to share in the interview which we’ll be sharing with our participants in our certification course, but one I wanted to share here with all of you today:  the importance of self-care, especially for professionals who are in the helping fields.

Though working in this field is definitely my heART-work and is a choice many others make, too, it can be downright overwhelming to carry the stories of so many people who are grieving and seeking.  Part of self-care for the practitioner is learning how to be wholly available for clients during sessions, but then be able to put the stories down when not in session.  It is not that you want to be unfeeling or disregard all you are privileged to witness in your work with others.  But it is important to practice the skill of being witness without being consumed; to practice the skill of being present in the moment to a client’s pain, but to not necessarily carry that pain into the rest of your life; to not let pain be the whole of your relationship with your client.

So one of the self-care practices Dr. Mel shared with us was the idea of a gratitude journal.  She talked a little about how she uses the gratitude journal in her own life and how she uses it to keep her heart broken OPEN in relation to her client interactions.  For instance, as practitioners we may share sacred space with a client who experienced the death of a child at birth where the trauma of the birth almost killed the mother herself.  While the grief work we do in this situation will probably be a result of the death of the child, we are also, in the present moment, working with a mother who is alive and learning to live again.  The mother’s life will touch us, and we may find ourselves honored to know her, to be part of the path as she finds her way again.  We will find ourselves grateful to be in relationship with this mom.

Capturing these thoughts in a gratitude journal can be a good, tangible way to remind our selves that the picture of life with our clients is about more than just the pain that was the catalyst that brought them to us.  It can be a way to stay conscious of the fact that though we are doing creative grief work, in the wider perspective, we are actually doing LIFE work.

I find also, just for me personally, that doing this kind of thing gives me practice on my own path as well.  It is an exercising of the muscles that can hold *both* the painful moments and at the same time a knowing that there is always more than just pain.  As I work a gratitude journal in my own life, I start to see the metaphor of it everywhere.  I even see it in my zentangle drawings.  The tangle can seem messy and criss crossed and knotted…but in-between the knots, there are spaces filled with beauty.

So there’s your creative prompt for the day.  No one is denying the pain that comes.  But can you also see the spaces where the heart is broken OPEN, too?  Can you see the glimpse of beauty and gratitude between the tangles of life and death?  Try your hand at a gratitude journal yourself and just see what it feels like.  Try your hand at a zentangle and see how the knots criss cross into making spaces for beauty.

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