“The first thing I tried to do in the months after losing my mother was to write a poem. I found myself turning to poetry in the way so many people do–to make sense of losses. And I wrote pretty bad poems about it. But I did feel that the poem was the only place that could hold this grief.”-Natasha Tretheway
We have been socially conditioned to see grief as something destructive and, by consequence, something to be feared. In seeing only destruction in loss, we are prevented from seeing in grief the power of creation. Destruction and creation are not opposing forces, they are the flip sides of the same coin.
In Hinduism, the face of God known as Shiva is known as the Destroyer. Yet, at the same time, Hinduism acknowledges that Shiva’s destructive power is not enacted to lay waste, but to prepare for rebirth. Thus, creation is also part of Shiva’s power. To create, to begin again, one must destroy or dismantle old ways of being.
Grief might be seen in a similar view: although overwhelming, its central power lies not in the ambition to destroy and decimate, but to dismantle and prepare grievers for the transition to another life. In this case, grief prepares our way for post-loss life. Creation, then, may be understood as part of the grief cycle.
There is a reason many grievers express themselves in creative ways in the wake of loss. There are new paths to build in post-loss life, new seeds to sew, and new priorities to cultivate. Creation goes hand in hand with loss, especially when a loss burns the world as we knew it to ashes.
Creativity and the compulsion to create will always be part of grief and should be welcomed as part of the healing process. As grievers, we must make sense of our pain, make sense of the loss, and of the new world in which we are thrust. A creative outlet, no matter what is it (painting, knitting, poetry, or even paint-by-number), will help channel our emotional responses to grief in a productive way and will allow our emotions to take form before our eyes. As we create, we can see the ebb and flow of our sadness, anger, and confusion take shape and change over time.
Accept and welcome the creative into your grief experience. As you heal, experiment with transforming your experience of destruction into one of personal creation. How might you express your grief through a creative act?