Creativity may be one of the ways to cope with our bereavement
One of my clients had gone through bereavement for her husband’s sudden death. She was overwhelmed by her loss and seemed to be very depressed for a long time during the grief process. In fact, she lost her father at young age due to his terminal illness. Losing a parental figure at her young age affected her sense of security and self image throughout her life. As a result, she married to a man much older than her and she saw him as her father figure to some extent. Deep down inside her, she felt incompetent and weak. Despite the fact that, she is a professional herself with lucrative job, she was emotionally dependent on her husband. She needed her husband companionship every day and told him all of her problems and emotional disturbance. Since she attached to him deeply, his sudden death disturbed her life so much that she had no one to turn to when feeling distressed.
For this client, marrying to a parental figure reinforces her sense of incompetence as she clinged to her husband so closely that she did not develop any other meaningful relationships outside the marriage. Her husband gave all the advices and made all the decisions for her. My client had not learn independence and competence in her life after getting married. After her husband’s death, she felt very helpless and weak inside her. With psychotherapy and her self-reflection, she stepped out from the grief gradually and was able to discover her unrealised coping ability in her daily life. She expanded her social network and learned to make her own decisions. After one and half year, she was living her life as a single happily despite she still missed her late husband very much. What is one of the elements in this client’s recovery in her grief and development of independence?
Creative work seemed to be one of the gateway for this client’s recovery. She enjoyed writing all along and I encouraged her to keep writing as a hobby after her husband’s death. She started to write short articles to express her feelings and thoughts towards her late husband and herself. The process of writing actually helped her to come to terms with the loss and embrace her pain in the bereavement. She also started to enjoy solitude as she engaged in creative writing. Instead of seeking comfort or support from friends, she connected with her internal world. She made sense of her own sufferings and started to gain insight into her dependency on her late husband.
In fact, her creative work reduced her sense of helplessness and increase her sense of competence after the death of her husband. She had better sense of control through expressing her thoughts and emotions through writing. From this example, we know that through creative arts, such as writing or painting, a person can better make sense of one’s internal world and integrated better with what had happened in one’s external environment. Through creating, a person can be healed by attempting to restore a loss to some extent. He or she may also be able to create a new unity within oneself. For instance, my client above found another part of her who is more independent and has competence to cope alone. In this way, a person may be able to integrate one’s experience with his or her internal experience.
No matter whether we are mourning for our loved ones or someone we respected in this world, we may try to use creative work to express ourselves and process our grief.