You are not (just) your grief + FREE activity!

Separating who I am from what I’ve been through helps me see myself more clearly.

The loss of a loved one is traumatic. But as time passes, a new loss can surface - the loss of self.

(Skip below to go to the instructions for your own collage activity.)

An organization called What’s Your Grief writes that “The way we think of ourselves, how we define ourselves, the story we tell ourselves about who we are, all of that comes together to create our identity.” (Check out the article here).

The loved one you lost was a key part of your past, present, and the future you always imagined. Losing them changed so much of that. You’re left standing alone and wondering, “who am I? why am I here? what am I doing now? where am I going?” These big questions feel overwhelming, disorienting, and honestly, scary. The task of “moving on” becomes a task of:

1.) distinguishing yourself as separate from the loss & the one lost

2.) then beginning to rediscover and reconstruct your personal identity.

I am not (just) my grief.

We used to base our identity on the fact that that loved one was going to be there. But constructing our identity around our loss and our grief is also not the solution. Who you are is greater than all these things. But when you’re always inside your head, it can be difficult to figure out what is you and what is it. There’s a great benefit to doing art as part of your grief recovery here: externalizing the things you think and feel helps you see and critique them in a different way.

Try this: Collage Exercise Instructions

1.) Flip through old magazines or even ads from the Sunday paper. Cut out images, words, articles, anything you feel a sort of “connection” to.

2.) Get a blank piece of paper or use a blank journal. Divide the paper in half with a line. Label one side “My Grief” and the other side “Myself”

3.) Begin sorting through your cut scraps, placing them in piles. If you recognize something as grief, put it into that pile. If you recognize something as YOU, put it into the other pile. Not sure? Create a third pile of things you can’t figure out yet.

4.) Begin gluing the cut pieces onto the paper under the appropriate heading. As you glue things down, you might discover that things in the “unknown” pile seem to sort themselves. If by the end, the unknown snaps still feel unknown, glue them on the dividing line!

5.) Reflect as if you were a stranger viewing this piece for the first time. What do you notice? What would you want to ask or tell this person? Write down your observations and questions.

6.) Reflect as an insider - this is YOU after all! Which pieces were the hardest to place? Which pieces were the easiest? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about your grief process?

The results will be different for everybody, because no one is quite like you. I know that for me, it was important to retain at least a small piece dedicated to my loss on my side of the piece. That’s because memory is important to me, and my loss has so changed my life, I do feel it at least in part defines me.

Let’s talk! What are some new things you’ve been learning about yourself? Leave a comment.