Guest post by Janelle Shantz Hertzler
(author of Seasons of Solace)
After my husband was killed by a drunk driver, several of my aunts provided time, supplies, and expertise in the area of scrapbooking. Now that I am five years beyond my husband’s death and have worked on graduate studies in the area of trauma healing, I know that finding creative outlets for painful emotions is extremely helpful.
While a person is in shock, many emotions seem to “freeze up” inside them. This is a good thing because the body and person would be overwhelmed if they didn’t have that initial “shock” phase of grief.
Later, however, some people need help to get those emotions to “thaw out.” I was one of those people. I had never really seen myself as a creative individual. I wasn’t sure if scrapbooking would really be my thing. But I was surprised. The more I did it, the more I felt that I was somehow moving in the direction of healing.
I started out by doing a paper scrapbook with photos and stories of my and my husband’s life together. Since I had an 18 month-old, I wanted to also create a book that would help him get to know his dad. I invited all my husband’s family, friends, and work associates to contribute photos and stories for this book.
Eventually I also made a digital storybook through an online memory book/photo development service. This story book was one that I wrote that my son could listen to and understand as a preschooler. It told the story in an age-appropriate way. It became a favorite book for that season of his life. Later, preschool carpool moms told me he would quote the book, telling the whole story to his preschool friends when they asked about his dad.
These kinds of scrapbooks can also be made by family and friends of the bereaved. Tell your memories–co-workers, siblings often have great stories that other family members may not have heard. A digital scrapbook with memories from co-workers, titled “Things We Loved About John” would make a wonderful and deeply meaningful sympathy gift.
If you are interested in more ideas about scrapbooks, digital memory books or other creative ideas for working through grief you are welcome to visit my site www.journey-through-grief.com