The healing power of creativity


Healing through creativityYesterday marked three years since I last held my middle son, Xavier. He died when he was very young, only two weeks old. Three years. An impossible distance between my son and myself. There are rituals around this time of year. Things that I do to remember him, things to mark the hardest days of the year. His birthday. His anniversary. The memory days in between. Most of them revolve around crafting things for him. I firmly believe in the healing power of creativity and it’s ability to connect us to memory and loved ones lost.

I make Xavier a prayer flag each birthday. Several flutter along our verandah. Picking up the breeze, ribbons rustling softly. I made the first one a few months after he left. A beautiful soul called Carly Marie had just started her prayer flag project and encouraged those that were missing a child to create one. For the first time in such a long time, I felt excited about something. I started sewing and I did not stop.

Prayer Flags - Healing through creativity

In moments of stillness, whilst I picked out lace and sewed it together, I found the closest thing to peace. There is a meditative silence in the repetition of needlework. It was there that I could meet the memory of my son in a peaceful way. My mind was distracted from the continual questions – the what ifs, the if onlys and the why mes. My hands, so empty, so bereft of things to do, were finally busy. Here was a shelter from the storm. I was able to make something beautiful for my son. Of course, I wanted to be crocheting a baby blanket or sewing him a bib. But it was a welcome revelation to find that I could do something for him still. I have talked more about the power of those prayer flags on Xavier’s blog.

Healing through creativity projects

Prayer flags, dream catcher and promise branch. The promise branch was created by friends at Baby E’s mother blessing.

I started writing again after Xavier died. A childhood practice reinvigorated. I needed words. A way to work through the pain. A release. I wrote poem after poem. Words falling freely, as if he were whispering them to me. I can no longer catch those verses in the same way. You can read some of those poems here. I read them now and they offer a connection, not only to Xavier, but that time in my grief. An evocation as strong as music or scent.

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Creativity has long been recognised as a way to work through grief. People much cleverer than I am have studied why and it’s interesting topic to research. But, from a purely personal point of view, this why I believe in the healing power of creativity:

  • It silenced the part of my brain that was screaming. It was such a relief to find quiet. To occupy that part of the brain with something else to think about.
  • It gave me something to do for my baby. When your baby is no longer in your arms you are not only robbed of your child, but in so many ways, your practical motherhood of that child. Creating things allowed me to mother Xavier, to maintain a connection.
  • It gave others a way to connect to Xavier. As a bereaved parent your greatest fear is that your child will be forgotten, that they will fade and no longer matter. You hold their memory as fiercely as you do your living children. Making things meant that others could relate to Xavier in a concrete way – and when they created their own things in memory of Xavier it filled me with hope. He has a lasting legacy of beautiful things.
  • Writing in particular helped me work through the emotions of grief. I need to dump so much out of my spinning brain.
  • In the midst of pain and unbearable darkness, it is light. It is a hopeful balm to a wounded heart. I still think of myself as a broken person, but without creative expression, I know the cracks would be much deeper.

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Have you used creative expression as way to heal? 

21 thoughts on “The healing power of creativity

  1. Tash Marie says:

    Beautiful post Robyna. A lovely way to remember Xavier! I have two beautiful babies I never held and lost to miscarriages in the second trimesters. Creativity certainly does help heal the wounds. Also talking.. talking and sharing always helps. x

    • Robyna says:

      I think so – and not just talking about them sadly (although it will always be sad and they will always be deeply missed) but also just doing beautiful things for and thinking beautiful things about our children is helpful. Maybe you might take part in the prayer flag project this year for your little ones?

  2. Kara says:

    The one creative thing that has really helped me stay sane after both Julia and Evan is scrapbooking. It took me a year until I was ready to tackle writing down Julia’s story (and that weekend I was sick, with Evan, and didn’t know it). It took me only a few days before I was able to jump into Evan’s books! I also sewed their Christmas stockings. I bought a matching pair from Ikea a few years back and spent a very long hot Brissie December night hand sewing their initials and decorations to their stockings. I really needed to get to bed but I needed to finish them both at the same time.

  3. lali108 says:

    Your prayer flags are absolutely beautiful, they capture so much sentiment, they are obviously made with so much love and care. I am so sorry for your loss but I glad that you found this way to heal and find expression. Sending hugs.

  4. Zoe Meunier says:

    Your prayer flags are just beautiful, such a wonderful way to remember and celebrate Xavier. I’m so sorry for your loss and commend you for being able to heal and find positivity in such a way.

  5. I'm Sarah says:

    This resonated so much with me Robyna. As you know, yesterday was a grief filled day for me too, but with the work I have been doing on my new blog, especially the pretty parts, it did help quiet the grief monster and give me something positive to focus on. It helped me create something on a day of loss and that gave me cause for smiles. Sending you massive hugs lovely lady. PS I love your creations – they are truly beautiful xx

    • Robyna says:

      It’s amazing how channelling such sadness into creative pursuits can ease the pain. Your new blog is so beautiful – I think your mum is very proud.

    • Robyna says:

      Thank you Sarah – I like to be able to share him, it’s a little way to keep his memory alive in more more minds than my own.

  6. dani @ sand has no home says:

    A beautiful post, to go with your beautiful prayer flags. I am so glad that your stitches brought you some peace, and continue to do so. I have always found that writing helps with grief, which is such an ever evolving thing. This has been so both with grieving my father and brother (who died in an accident 22 years ago) and with a new, different kind of grief that I have been experiencing lately.
    You keep your darling baby alive with your creativity, and your love x

    • Robyna says:

      Thank you so much Dani. I do think it helps to bring something positive to something dark – I feel like I can actually enjoy my baby boy when I am making him things, rather than just focussing on the heartache of missing him. The people will miss are so much more than sadness.

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