Poetry & Art Therapy Column, December 2004
By Kara L.C. Jones

An Experiment in Holidaze

"Death will always re-write your address book for you."
-Richard Obershaw

So this year, when family or friends can't seem to acknowledge your FULL self -- that is, the you who is a parent whose child has died, maybe also a parent to other living children, an artist, or student, a wife or partner, a cook or baker, a bellydancer or yoga devotee -- when they seek to exclude the parts of you that make them uncomfortable, I say turn around and go home!!

Instead of trying to convince everyone around you that it is NORMAL to both feel moments of joy AND moments of grief during the holidays no matter how long ago it was that your child died -- instead of doing that, go home and take care of YOU!

We spend our lives trying to make peace, make nice, make up the difference, make people understand. These are all things that might be okay when compared to other options like violence and war. But for these holidaze, just for this year, you have my full permission to not be the peace maker for a few days! GO HOME AND TAKE CARE OF YOU INSTEAD!

You can make peace, make up, and educate people after the new year! I promise they will still be there -- the tough nuts to crack never leave! So let it go for now and go home to take care of you!

Here are a few ideas for what you can do with your SELF CARE HOLIDAY:

-Do nothing. No, I'm serious. Nothing. Don't laugh. It isn't as easy as it sounds. I mean NOTHING. Ignore the phone, computer, tv, food, radio, people who normally need/demand your time. Sit alone and in silence. You may fall asleep. You may start to think. That's okay. Just let the thoughts come and go. Just sit. When I manage to do it, I'm amazed at the results.

-Write, undisturbed, in a journal. Again, not as easy as it sounds. I really mean UNDISTURBED! Nothing and no one but you, pen, and paper. Start writing. Keep writing. Write anything. Just don't stop. Don't edit. Don't re-read or re-word. Don't let the pen come off the paper. Just keep going. Run out of things to write? Then make a list. I don't care what kind of list, just a list of words, any words. Just keep writing. Again, when I manage to do it, I'm usually stunned a few days later when I read over it and see all the things that came to the surface.

-Write letters to all the deceased loved ones you are missing this season. Say everything you've ever wanted to say. Don't hold back. When done, if appropriate, add them to the family tree memory album. Or go out under your favorite tree and bury them. Or burn them in your next wood stove fire.

-Gather all those holiday catalogues that have come to your mailbox since Halloween! Ugh, there are a LOT of them. Gather them all. Get a pair of scissors. Start cutting out photos of all the things you want for you or for others. This isn't based in reality at all. This isn't cutting out the things that are "affordable" nor "reasonable" -- this is a FREE FOR ALL. Cut out every luxurious thing you see. Whatever "luxury" means to you. Then get a glue stick, a big piece of paper, and some markers and start to collage. When your collage is done, hang it up and really look at it. What in it makes you happy? What gives you comfort? What is it that you would just sink into and relax with? Now realize that all those FEELINGS just came up INSIDE you. You were just LOOKING at photos of those things -- you weren't actually using them or buying things outside yourself. You were just thinking and those feelings came to the surface. Now put your credit cards away, but hang up that collage somewhere you'll see it often. Use it as a touchstone to feel a sense of relaxation and comfort as you move back into everyday life.

-Get some cheesecloth, tight knit or some old fabric cut into a big square. Experiment with putting things like tea leaves, milk beads, lavender, sea salt, etc -- in different mixes and quantities -- into hot water and smell the scents. Find one you love. Wrap the mix into the cheesecloth, tie it closed tightly so ingredients don't slip out, pour a hot bath, let your "tea bag" seep, get in and enjoy!!

Okay, you get the idea. There is no reason in this crazy season that you should neglect yourself! Take care of you! If you are feeling solid and well cared for, then you will be on good footing for giving to others. But if you are compromised and feeling icky, then there's not much to give out anyway, so why try?! Turn around, go home, and take care of you first!! Fill your cup so it is overflowing with plenty to share!! Don't try passing around an empty cup! That's silly and won't really help anyone!!


A Comprehensive Archive

A few readers have written to say it's difficult to locate previous issues of this column, so below is a comprehensive archive. Please note that each link here will pop open a new window containing the Poetry Therapy column named:

Discovering Poetry Therapy

Pt I: Defining Poetry Therapy *and* Pt II: Coping with the Holidays

The Notion of "Healing"

National Poetry Awareness Month - 2003

At the MISS Conference: poetry and kids

So you want to be certified?

Let go, Let go

Outside, Inside

Can't you get over it?

Layers & Living - 9/11


Be Still

Reviewing "Poetic Medicine"

Day of the Dead

Letting Expression Come

Forgotten Familiar

Empty Chairs, Tiny Stockings


Word Play Leads to Music

Reaction Writing

Giving Voice During Grief - winter holiday oriented

Shifting Perspective

Open Ended Conversation

A BodyWrites! Experience

About the Author
Kara is an artist of many disciplines. Trained as a poet and bookmaker, she has also been known to act, bellydance, and do henna body arts. She teaches and performs through faires, festivals, local art centers, artists in the schools programs, KotaPress and independently. To find out more, see:


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