Creative Healing

by Janelle Shantz Hertzler
(Pennsylvania)

scrapbook for my son

scrapbook for my son

After my husband was killed by a drunk driver, several of my aunts gifted me with time, supplies, and expertise in the area of scrapbooking. Currently I am five years beyond my husband's death and have worked on graduate studies in the area of trauma healing. I now know that finding creative outlets for painful emotions is extremely helpful and healing.

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 person. I wasn't sure if scrapbooking would really be my thing. I was pleasantly 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.

I also used the scrapbook format to collect my poetry and fine art photography. This was a private journal that I used to document my own journey. After sharing it with a few friends, they encouraged me to pursue publication. This journal developed into a book Seasons of Solace.

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