Something new with your hands (Grieving creatively #4)

Part 4 of a series of articles on creative ways of coping with grief, with a dose of good memories thrown in.


There’s something to be said for trying new activities when you’re grieving, particularly ones that require concentration and the use of our hands.

I’m thinking here of activities like crafts, DIY or cooking/baking.

There’s a process we go through when it’s something new. Perhaps there’s an initial hesitation or perhaps an eagerness of the newness. Then there is the ‘learning about it’ stage. How is this activity done? Perhaps we are following written instructions, a YouTube video, or maybe there’s someone sitting beside us trying to explain or demonstrate. Then there is ‘figuring it out for ourselves’. This involves concentration as we try to follow the instructions. Maybe we are measuring ingredients, threading a needle, preparing a work surface.

Then comes the doing. From an initial hesitation – or rush – to get going, we engage in the task. We use our eyes, we use our hands, and we use our mind. Depending on the activity, we might become completely absorbed and have to keep concentrating. Other tasks might be more repetitive, which can be soothing in their own way.

And then there is the joy of accomplishment. Maybe it’s taken an hour, maybe several hours on several occasions. But we have a finished product – something to be enjoyed and perhaps shared.

When there is so much in our grief journey to make us sad, it is so good to experience that sense of accomplishment. It can really lift our mood. No matter how imperfect the finished product, the fact is we tried something new, and we completed.

Along the way, as we concentrated and figured it out, the pain of our grief might have receded for a few minutes. Most of us can only focus fully on one thing at a time. Perhaps we were also absorbed because our hands were engaged as well. It wasn’t just the sense of sight, but of touch.

And so many of us find that trying something new can be a balm in our grief. It might be only a temporary reprieve from the agony of feelings, but that is okay. Temporary relief is fine. A little distraction won’t hurt.

Here are a few examples on these lines.

Boroboro – a patchwork technique

At the retreats I run, we always offer a craft activity – something not too difficult but also that is uncommon and people are less likely to have done it before.

At one retreat, a lady with experience taught boroboro. This is a Japanese embroidery technique that was traditionally used to patch up old garments. (Quite appropriate for anyone whose life feels rather worn out and torn up!)

This is the beautiful piece of work produced by one of the people who had never tried it before. She wrote later to tell me,

“I loved doing the boro boro and found it relaxing and it gave opportunity for reflection.  I was able to pray for those I met at the gathering as it reminded me of the lovely people I met. You can pick it up and do a little or spend time doing it, perhaps listening to music and meditating.

… It may be that others who didn’t go to the boro boro group would like to try it. It’s so easy and I made up the designs using the patterns on the fabric. It could be that some may want to make theirs into a memory cushion or wall hanging using clothing pieces or the favourite colours of their loved one, etc.”

Find out more about Boroboro here

A beautiful cushion cover made using the boroboro technique. Thank you to Isa for sharing!

You don’t have to be a Great British Bake Off fan to try a new recipe

With the latest series of GBBO having finished last night, baking might be on your mind. If so, let’s not worry about ‘Paul Hollywood’ handshakes or elaborate Mad Hatter Tea Party creations. Just pick up a recipe book and have a go.

A book isn’t even necessary. A tip from my husband John (who does the cooking in our household) is to simply google a recipe for a dish.

This is where a creative activity can overlap with cherished memories. Cooking a dish that a loved one enjoyed can be a great way to connect with them. Think back to something you’d eat at your grandmother’s house. Can you replicate it?


This article could go on for pages and pages, as there are endless ideas for trying something new. I’ll leave it here with you. What have you tried? What would you like to ‘have a go’ at?

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