Grief & Creativity

This week, I got a question from a sweet Epic Creative that has stuck with me so much, I almost didn’t write about it here.

Not because I didn’t have thoughts.

But because I didn’t want to get it wrong.

“Hey Jess. I appreciate your uplifting messages. Anything for working through grief and creativity?”

Grief is such a personal thing, and it’s no secret that many of us have experienced loss this year at a level that we never truly expected to face.

What I’d hope for this creative isn’t helpful tips to turn grief into something constructive, or somehow “useful” for one’s creative path.

Grief can be a tool, but that’s usually a side effect, not a goal. You can’t sharpen a weapon until you can wield it.

What I really want to give this creative – and anyone else dealing with grief – is peace.

Peace to feel what you’re feeling without judgment. To process, to reflect. To heal. And ultimately, to find the trust in yourself that, no matter what, you can keep moving forward.

And this is where the connection to creativity is most evident.

Creativity requires trust above all else, and that means we must trust our grief, too - no matter how unknown the path may be.

Of course, grief doesn’t always have to stem from life-changing events and loss. And when it comes to “feeling our feelings”, as an industry, we can’t seem to get our story straight.

Raise your hand if you've heard this one: 

"You'd better have a thick skin in this industry, because it can be brutal!”

It's not terrible advice, especially for writers and artists. As we put our work out there, we're (no doubt) going to have opinions launched our way like cheap T-shirts shot out of a cannon at a baseball game.

And opinions - especially the ones that go against how we want to see ourselves - can really suck. They can feel off the mark at best, and violent at worst. You can grieve these things too, just like any other sadness or injustice that corners you.

But I've also heard this advice:

"It's important for creatives to stay open and vulnerable, so we can make our best work."

So, like... which is it?

I could be all mystical right now and throw glitter in your face and whisper "it's both!" but frankly, if I were on the receiving end of that advice, I'd roll my eyes.

So let's really peel this onion.

To me, the answer isn’t to hide your grief or your feelings. Nor is it to express them so openly that you leave yourself vulnerable to situations that harm you further.

As I was mulling the question, the scientist in me chimed in. In ecology, there’s a saying “It depends”. Because literally, everything depends on everything else.

Your handling of grief will depend on your inner ecology, and what needs you have from your roots to your outward creative expression.

If you’re a creative species who can feel and express grief outwardly and that helps you heal, then that has to be right.

If you’re not, and need to cuddle with softness and let your grief be personal and held in the quiet times of fuzzy darkness, that has to be right for you, too.

The answer isn’t thick skin, or thin skin — it’s knowing your own skin, and developing a practice that supports you and challenges you at the same time.

It’s trusting yourself. Always.

To the dear reader who wrote in, and to anyone holding onto sadness, I hope you know you've got witnesses to your feelings, even if you feel you're carrying the burden alone.

It's safe for you to be exactly who you are, where you are, and the world will eagerly await you when you're ready — however you choose to share yourself.

Take care out there, my friend.

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