I’m Not an Artist!

Creativity takes courage.~ Henri Matisse

For many of us, we limit the concept of creativity to the arts: painting, drawing, writing, music, dance, and such.  It’s true these activities require creativity.  But there is another aspect of creativity: creative thought.  Writing seems to bridge both aspects of creativity – the artistic aspect and the thought aspect.  Creative ability is the skill of using our imagination in solving a problem.  So, if you’re like me and cannot draw or paint, chances are you have creative ability in another area.

Creative ability can be seen in putting together a meal from odd ingredients in the fridge and pantry.  Or maybe you can find your way home via an alternate route because of a road closure.  How many of us can read even when words are misspelled or missing a letter due to a typo?  Our minds produce a solution to a problem, and that is creative thinking.  We really are more creative than we might think!

But that doesn’t tell us how to go about developing creativity in our lives, helping us move forward after loss.  How would I go about becoming more creative?  If I remember that creative thinking uses our imagination to solve a problem, I will realize my need to define the problem.  In grief, this may be the most difficult part of creativity.  Why not ask a friend to help you figure out what the problem is?  That may be all that it takes!

After my husband passed, I had a horrible time remembering to eat.  The first several days I just couldn’t keep anything down.  Because I live in the low desert in Southern California, it was all I could do to drink enough water and unsweet tea with no lemon (the only things that wouldn’t come back up most of the time) to keep me hydrated.  Maybe a week passed, and I couldn’t figure out where the extreme lethargy came from.  I called a friend and asked if this extreme lethargy was normal.  I could barely get out of bed.  He asked if I had eaten anything that day or the day before.  Nope!  Only water and iced tea for the past week or more, nothing else settled in my stomach. 

Well, I needed to eat!  The problem was the only thing that even began to sound appetizing was nachos and quesadillas.  I knew I couldn’t live on nachos and quesadillas and had to decide what to add that would settle.  Enter mac and cheese!  Then bananas. At the two-week mark, I ate a burrito, and it stayed down!  Next came a tuna sandwich.  Over the course of a couple of weeks, I was able to add most of the food I knew I should be eating.  I solved the problem by deciding I should start with my comfort foods, which consist of cheese and carbs.  Then I decided to try an additional simple protein in the form of a simple bean burrito.  Then added on little by little, kind of like when solid foods are introduced to babies.

This has worked well for me in other challenges.  First, identify the problem, then find a solution to that problem.  When we begin creatively solving problems, our minds begin to function better, and the brain fog begins to lift.  Creativity is essential to moving forward after loss.

Blessings as you build your creativity,


Written by Cindy Bratton

Most people are never blessed to the degree that I have been. I’m a retired educator and a retired missionary now embarking on my third career: CEF (Chief Encouragement Officer) of the Live With Grace Initiative. You might ask, “A third career?” However, my question is, “How could I not?” Here’s a little of my story: On September 7, 2017, my husband, Dana, was diagnosed with Fronto-Temporal Dementia (think Bruce Willis). By the middle of 2018, I fully realized what this diagnosis meant – all dementia is terminal, and FTD is no exception. The illness can progress at various rates; seven years after diagnosis is the average life expectancy for FTD. I had to learn how to be an excellent caregiver. Over the course of the next 34 months, I would slowly lose my best friend, my lover, my ministry partner, and my “partner in crime.” 16 months after Dana’s diagnosis, I experienced my second significant loss. On December 31, 2018, our youngest son took his own life. This was a total shock to everyone. The grief was almost unbearable. By January 24, 2019, Dana began a series of hospitalizations due to the rapid progress of FTD, largely attributable to his rightful emotional response to our son’s death. In the spring of 2019, I began having several rounds of excruciating pain, which my Primary Care Physician (PCP) brushed off. However, to shut me up, he ordered blood testing which showed my Rheumatoid Factor nearly 34 times what is considered normal. By early December I was diagnosed with moderately severe Rheumatoid Disease (sometimes called Rheumatoid Arthritis). So, yet another loss in my life: this time it was my own health. Three losses in 27 months. By some miracle, my husband was discharged from long-term care on March 9, 2020, just days before everything shut down due to COVID-19. Yes, he was wheelchair-bound and needed 24/7/365 care, but he could make his own transfers from bed to wheelchair, to chair, to shower, and back again. On June 28th of that year, things had opened up a bit and we celebrated our 45th anniversary by renewing our vows at church. On July 9, 2020, Home Health came for their regular visit. Dana’s O2 Sat. was 78%, and it couldn’t be raised with deep breathing. The nurse got us an immediate appointment with his PCP. I was instructed to call the office when we got into the parking lot to confirm the office was empty, just in case Dana had COVID-19. The doctor was unable to get his O2 up with his resources and said he had to go to the Emergency Room. “OK,” I said, “I’ll take him there.” The doctor said he needed to be transported via ambulance, and the ambulance was called. Our hugs and kisses before Dana was loaded into the ambulance gave the EMTs great concern. Little did I know those would be the last hugs and kisses we would ever share. He got to the ER about 11:30 a.m.; at about 1:30 p.m. I got the call confirming the diagnosis of COVID-19. 13 days later his organs would completely shut down, I gave permission for him to have the ventilator removed, and he was gone. This was my fourth major loss within 34 months. In the prologue to the second edition of Grieve With Grace, Pastor Lee Strawhun speaks of grief upon grief, of compound grief. This is exactly what I had experienced in 34 short months: The loss of my husband’s health to FTD; the loss of our son’s life to suicide; the loss of my good health to degenerative Rheumatoid Disease; and the loss of my husband’s life to COVID-19. After my husband passed from FTD, which COVID-19 hastened, I found myself in the position of being able and desiring to facilitate my church’s grief recovery ministry. It was in that grief recovery program that I met Eric. He attended the support group after the death of his beloved Jan, and at one point gave me an early copy of Grieve With Grace long before it went into print. My reaction upon reading it was, “Wow! How did you take the way I processed my grief and so expertly turn it into an acronym?” The acronym of GRACE encompasses Gratitude, Resilience, Authenticity, Creativity, and Empathy. We came to the same conclusions by slightly different paths and using slightly different descriptors, but the conclusions were the same. From that point on, we became collaborators on this project, Grieve with Grace. I immediately decided it could be a seven-week follow-up to our original thirteen-week recovery program which brought participants to a place of accepting their loss. An additional seven weeks so those who are grieving can begin to move forward, pursuing a life of meaning and purpose, thus honoring their loved ones. I envision a future where Grieve With Grace will be used by grief counselors to guide thousands – no, millions – into lives full of meaning and purpose as they step forward with Gratitude, Resilience, Authenticity, Creativity, and Empathy. I am honored to share my thoughts with you all and please remember, I am always just one click away:) Cindy



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