My Grief Doll

By Kimberly Sauter

Delayed Grief
My five year cancer remission anniversary was approaching. The five year mark is an important date for a cancer survivor because it isn't until being cancer free for that period of time, that the medical community considers you cured. This was a time to celebrate, however I didn't feel like celebrating. I was depressed, weepy, and basically very confused at my lack of joy over such an important anniversary.

After spending some time soul searching, I realized that I was very sad. It was a deep sadness and a yearning for something more in my life and I realized that I needed help. I had started therapy in that same year and was dealing with many emotional issues from the past but therapy alone didn't feel like enough. I had always been good at sweeping the past under the rug or at least I thought that I was and was learning the hard way, that not dealing with an issue had consequences. This was definitely true in regards to the emotional trauma of my cancer.

Searching For Help
I had been thinking about going to church again and had heard about a new minister in our area. I knew of her from several books that she had published and decided to attend a Wednesday afternoon service. The church was wonderful and just what I needed. They had many support groups and the people were kind and loving. I spent hours just crying in their chapel and during the services, before finally reaching out for more support.

I attended a new healing circle that was formed by the associate minister, Sandy Scott. Sandy has an incredible gift of showing empathy and can just be present and supportive with someone in crisis. Her caring, love, and wonderful suggestions helped me to face the overwhelming grief that remained as a result of my cancer. For me, it was very important to take time for a healthy grieving period in order to heal.

A Healing Solution
Sandy had many wonderful ideas that I gratefully embraced, including making a grief doll. The intent of the doll was to provide a mechanism to externalize the feelings that were causing sadness. The doll was simply two pieces of fabric sewn together in the shape of a gingerbread man, with a hole left open. Other supplies included, cotton batting and a pen and paper. The doll was empty in the beginning and became filled by inserting pieces of paper wrapped in the cotton batting.

Whenever I had a sad thought or feeling, I would write it down on a small scrap of paper and put it in my pocket or purse. This got the feeling out in the open and visible. At a later point in time, I could then stuff it into my doll. Sometimes, I even carried my doll with me in my pocket and could stuff it immediately. At an appropriate future time, I would then have a good cry with my doll who was now holding all my grief. Crying, praying, grieving, and healing, that is the gift that this very special doll brought to my life.

My mourning period lasted about a year. It may sound like a lot, but for me, it was a year well spent and a year, that has released me from an enormous amount of pain and has opened me spiritually. I am very thankful for having found my church, therapist, Sandy, God, and a mechanism for good grief.

I am healing and feel not only physically cured from my cancer but more emotionally healed as well. I hope that you will give one of these dolls a try if you have had some event in your life that needs healing too!

For more details about grief and intention dolls, please see Kimberly's site at

Author Biography
Kimberly was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 1992 at the young age of 26. Cancer was a wake-up call for her and resulted in a complete life transformation. In her pursuit of healing, she found her creative spirit and has since been exploring her feelings through the mediums of poetry, collage, drawing, painting, and writing. In 1999, she married her soul mate and is now living her dreams.

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