Quotes of Wisdom 39 Sustaining Creativity During Stress and Grief is Vital for Mental Health

“Creativity is healing.” – Yours Truly

Brighten you day with color. Notice how your mind and body change with the process.

Creativity changes brain chemistry.   

I don’t need to read studies (though there are a few) to know how my mood changes when I sit and knit for 30 minutes. I know how playing in acrylic paint relieves my stress and emotional pain. Delete the pressure of accomplishing something worthy of an art showing, and the activity becomes about the process, the experience, rather than the outcome. I notice my mind and mood calm down from whatever stressors are overwhelming me at the time. It’s a mood change that sticks with me long enough to be noticeable.

My mother’s death in early February this year taxed my strength and endurance.

For several months after my mother died, my processing was on the surface, visible and I talked about it frequently. The grief “fog” was thick.  Creativity was a lifeline giving me relief from the intensity of the emotions and an outlet for my restless energies.

Here’s what I did to cope and aid my heart’s natural need for healing. These experiences solidified my belief in healing through creativity. But, it’s more than coping skills. It’s turning emotional and mental distressed energy into something tangible. It’s transforming the difficulty of adjustment during grief into something on the “outside” which gives relief to inner turmoil.

  • I wrote out my thoughts on paper and electronically, sometimes in a blur of scrawl legible only to my eyes.
  • I continued to blog.
  • Sporadically and without focus, I edited stories in my files.
  • I started a new project – a guide for social workers wanting to start private practice. It’s almost finished!
  • I wrote a few lines of poetry.
  • I continued to take photographs of my mother’s gardens and other colorful scenes.
  • I even started an Instagram account to showcase my cell phone photography and occasional paintings – see feed in the right hand column
  • I spent time gardening – sometimes just wandering through observing the flowers outward as I observed my inner roller coaster of emotions

All of my creative energy was a swirl through and around and about my mother’s passing.  In the background, my husband was dutifully taking care of groceries, the emotional needs of the kids, and most of the meal planning/prep, allowing me the space I needed to cope with my pain and continue to work.  I was overwhelmed with grief and not very “present” for the needs of anyone except my father and my clients.

In the middle of July, I felt myself walk out of the fog. Over summer, as a family, we had five fun lake days! Very soothing for all of our hearts; a balm for the sadness of my mother’s death from Breast Cancer.

Then, abruptly in August, another deep dark fog moved in.  This time with a dangerous tornado swirling inside. I was engulfed in a seriously overwhelming, “over my head,” situation and in danger of being swooshed away.

My attention was pulled away from processing my mother’s death, in the more peaceful state I’d attained, to dealing with a crisis at my kids’ school. We (I was a board member) had hired a new director to replace our brilliant retiring director who had saved the school from the brink of closure. At the beginning of the school year, this new director imposed policies that were his idea of the ideal school. Things did not work out so well and enrollment plummeted. Overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility and worry, for two solid months I did my best to influence the situation positively. I was “down the rabbit hole” where things were not as they appeared.

At the end of three months of being completely mentally and emotionally immersed in the school’s troubles, I made the difficult decision (completely backed by my husband) to transfer our kids to another school. This meant the loss of the dream I had of them graduating on the sweet little outdoor stage we’d watched my nephew graduate from last year. It meant saying goodbye to our favorite awesome teacher. It meant establishing a homeschooling routine and adjustments in schedules. It meant extra stress and grief.

Bottom line? Another loss. Though not traumatic like the death of a loved one, a loss indeed directly impacting our family. My most painful reality was that I had no power in the situation. I could not effect positive change. It was supremely frustrating.

Interestingly, in the middle of the insanity, I had a nightmare which demanded a story. It’s called Mermaid. The story’s in the editing phase now, (how many projects do I have in this aggravating phase?!) 😉but I’ve been inspired to pick up acrylic paints as a result!

The weather in Northern California has turned from scorching dry to drenching rain discouraging my urge to garden.  My writing muse has been stifled under stress for months (except for the Mermaid monster story)! 

I haven’t been inspired to look at Quotes of Wisdom ideas since August.  I was overwhelmed by the school business but still able to post photos of flowers and paintings on Instagram. I started IG as a way to share the beauty of my mother’s gardens, of which I am now the caretaker. It was a creative process I could pull off spontaneously that improved my mood on the most harrowing of days.

Over the past week I’ve picked up my knitting needles and crochet hook. Wow! I am so glad I had Carpal Tunnel Release surgery two years ago! Handwork is therapy!

I am still watching our old school with sadness and anticipation for whatever comes next. We have made lifelong friends there and hope for the best. We are all sad for the losses experienced by other families, staff, and teachers as well. When a school goes through dramatic leadership changes and teeters on the brink of closure most everyone is affected. Some more than others. It’s the loss of jobs I am the most sad about.

The good news! A few days ago, my muse suggested a new writing idea. I’ve been writing again. Obviously, right? Cuz, here I am writing to you! I can’t tell you how good it feels!

The new project is a guide called Living with Grief – 5 Creative & Colorful Mindfulness Activities for Winter.  I am also creating its “near-mirror image” called Living with Chronic Conditions – 5 Creative & Colorful Mindfulness Activities for Winter.  Stay tuned for final editions filled with photos and links to videos, eventually! I pray my muse stays focused long enough to finish these projects despite pesky life distractions. I can see this guide integrating into a therapy group 😉 

As so, late Autumn marches on with blustery weather changes. Winter and December holidays are approaching quickly.  If you find you need a touch of introspection, or relief from stress or grief, give creativity a try.  Learn something new! There are video “how tos” all over YouTube so learning need not be complicated. Here are some simple ideas:

  • play with acrylic, watercolor, or oil paints (hint: you can use acrylics on thick water color paper to save money
  • knit at sampler patch or washcloth (try http://www.lionbrand.com for “how to” videos) and http://www.ravelry.com for ideas
  • crochet a washcloth (or three and give as a gift with a bar of fancy soap) (try links above for “how to” videos and ideas)
  • write a haiku
  • take photos and edit on cell phone or computer – change the colors for fun
  • draw with block crayons (Stockmar are fantastic)
  • wet felt a bar of soap
  • needle felt animals
  • play with clay
  • play with beeswax (Stockmar modeling beeswax is cool)
  • doodle with pens or pencils
  • draw with chalk (try high pigment chalk or chalk markers)
  • color in adult coloring books (take photo and change colors!)

Whatever suits your fancy, it’s all good. Feel the relief in your mind, body, and spirit!

Grief is exhausting but many forms of creativity allow the body to rest while the internal work continues. In fact, creativity makes space for the process to continue unobstructed by life’s busy-ness.

If you liked this post you might like https://bonniemckeeganauthor.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/quotes-of-wisdom-36-healing-through-gardening/

As always, thank you for visiting! Feel free to like, comment, share, follow my journey or re-blog as your heart and mind desire. I’d love to know you’ve been here.


Bonnie A. McKeegan 3.3-02.1.jpeg

*Quotes of Wisdom – a Friday at 9am (Pacific Time Zone) series offering Wisdom, Feel Good, Inspirational and Thought-provoking Quotes. Sometimes with links and most likely, with too many thoughts of my own included.  

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9 Replies to “Quotes of Wisdom 39 Sustaining Creativity During Stress and Grief is Vital for Mental Health”

  1. Lovely! This statement, “turning emotional and mental distressed energy into something tangible,” was an especially powerful statement. We need a word in the English language for the moment when creation observation flips a satisfaction switch in the psyche.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Andrea. I’ve been making scarves for three days, in my spare moments, thus, creativity turns into gifts for friends :-). Really, a way to express my gratitude to them and cope at the same time. Thank you for visiting. Always good to see you here. Namaste

      Liked by 1 person

    1. When I think about the devastation so many are enduring, I feel guilty even talking about loss of things like our school. While it teeters on closure d/t low enrollment, the entire community of Paradise, just 2 hours from here, was wiped off the map by wildfire. At the same time the fires in Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park in Southern California flared up, the day after the Thousand Oaks bar shooting. Newbury Park is my hometown… I think the stress of watching so much tragedy so close to home and heart, plus living in an equally dangerous fire zone, made it crucial for me to use creative skills to cope. As always, thank you for stopping by Debby!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Bonnie. I can’t even pretend to imaginehow devastating things have been in California. Paradise broke my heart and I don’t even live there. Let us all pray that 2019 will be better for everyone. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This post really resonated with me and was just what i needed. My husband passed away 3 months ago after battling a rare cancer for 9 years. It is difficult trying to heal myself physically and emotionally from the stress and deal with my grief, so i have been trying to establish creative habits and hobbies to cope. Thanks for the ideas and your thoughts. Much love

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Renee,
      I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s passing. Cancer… so very difficult to go through. It is devastating. Over the years, creativity, in one form or another, has always helped me. I have been crocheting scarves in spare moments over the past three days. Marathon sessions, you could say, as I manage thoughts and emotions coming up in waves. No pattern, can’t concentrate to figure out anything complicated, 😉 just a repeated half-double stitch round and round or across, turn, and back again until it’s a nice size. If you crochet (or want to learn), you could try something like Lion Brand Homespun (not an ad here, just what I’ve been using since a friend told me it’s what she uses to make shawls). Would love to hear about any creative projects you’ve been working on. Big hug to you during this intense time of grief. Thank you for writing. I really appreciate it.


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