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The Healing Power of Creativity

By Michelle Lehnardt


“In the first weeks after the death of my daughter,” Lisa told me, “I couldn’t even look at my sewing machine or my quilts or any of the creative things I’d always loved.”

“There didn’t seem to be any point,” she continued, “what was the use of my silly projects in this life where you can’t take anything with you.”

“But one day my sweet husband said to me, “Maybe your quilts will help you heal. Maybe you can use your talents to help others heal?”


With great trepidation, Lisa opened her daughter’s closet and began cutting up designer jeans to make a quilt in honor of Jocelyn (or Jocie or Jiggy), Lisa’s vivacious, red-haired girl who died in a ski accident at just fifteen. That first quilt was given to Jocie’s best friend and the creation of it was so healing that Lisa began working on another and then another. Soon she was creating quilts for other families who had lost children. “As Saints,” Lisa said, “we are often told, ‘If you’re sad, just pull up your bootstraps and go out and serve someone else.’ I was too fragile to help at a women’s shelter or even join a sewing circle. But, I could stitch quilts and send a bit of love out to others who were hurting.”


As Lisa emerged from the initial fog of of grief she found that she wanted to record every moment of her family life– she wanted to capture each freckle on her son’s nose, her daughter’s favorite red cowboy boots, Christmas vacation at the beach. Focusing through her camera lens, she saw that although her life wasn’t the one she had imagined, it was still beautiful, vibrant and hopeful.

Inspired by Lisa’s quilting and photography, her husband Dean began nurturing backyard beehives. He planted great clumps of lavender to tempt the tiny harvesters and taught himself the science of apiculture. Soon, he was bottling sweet jars of honey for friends; this fall he transformed leftover beeswax into “Jiggy Sticks”— premium lipbalms in luscious scents such as Coconut Lime, Vanilla Mint, Lemongrass, and Mountain Snow– all in honor of his girl.



Lisa created a blog to record the happiness in her new life. Like most bloggers, she questions why she spends so much time writing and posting photographs– but she’s found that it cheers her to scroll through the events of the year and to see that although she misses her daughter every day, her family is richly blessed.

Creativity and it’s power to heal resides in each of us- we each have different time, talent and financial constraints (I realize I set a pretty high standard by using Dean and Lisa as examples)– but with a bit of soul searching, everyone can find a healing art. Our own Kellie/Selwyn began writing a blog as a way to heal from her divorce, Melissa Dalton-Bradford blessed all of us in her grief with soul-wrenching poetry, and my friend Zalia dedicated herself to fitness after the death of her baby boy– determined to create a healthy mother for her future children.

Last year, my sister and I suffered a heartbreaking betrayal. Rather than making a New Year’s resolutions we determined to write a screenplay. As we’ve sketched the outline for our fluffy romantic comedy we’ve giggled and swooned at plot twists and especially fabulous dialogue. Instead of talking endlessly about ‘the big hurt’ we discuss what Freddy would say to April and how to round out Rosy’s character.

As we’ve worked we’ve been astonished at the lightness we feel. The Spirit attends us as we work on our admittedly, silly movie. And I am in awe of this healing power the Lord has offered to each of us; a reflection of His likeness, the Creator of All.

How has creativity helped you in times of sorrow?

Have you seen others healed by creative pursuits?

Why do you think creativity is so powerful?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

28 thoughts on “The Healing Power of Creativity”

  1. How has creativity helped you in times of sorrow? As you wrote, it helped me survive my divorce. It was a way of expressing – to myself mainly, others as a happy coincidence – how I felt, what I was going through, and gave me a focus instead of wallowing too often. Then it helped others, easing some of sorrow's weight.

    Have you seen others healed by creative pursuits? Absolutely. Expressed in all sorts of ways.

    Why do you think creativity is so powerful? Because it's being present in our own "first day". Making something from nothing, turning it into something that has meaning, purpose, beauty, and knowing that it's because of our own self that it now exists. It's godlike, and precious, and makes us better people.

    Can I please read your screenplay?

  2. When I was in high school, my mother made quilts for two teenagers who died in car crashes from their t-shirts and jeans. The first was the son of a coworker, the second was a girl she didn't even know. Apparently the family heard about the first quilt and requested one too. I remember her saying how technically challenging the quilts were, but even I was touched at the significance of the quilts. I would look at the clothes sitting waiting to be cut up and think about the kind of people those other kids were. I could imagine their mothers literally wrapping themselves in the memories of their children.

    Creativity is so powerful because it comes from this deep, private place within us. It allows us to turn something raw and painful into something beautiful and healing.

    I love this post.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful, moving post, Michelle. Lisa and Dean are two of those people that you meet once and never forget.

    And I can't wait to see your fluffy romantic comedy!!

  4. great post- I came up with the term "generative coping" to describe just this thing. Creating things as a way of getting through. The resurgence of my art came out of my 7 miscarriages. Creating things in times of emotional desolation or struggle is very powerful

  5. I definitely believe in the healing power of creativity. In high school I was very involved in visual art. Looking back on it I see how much I needed an outlet for the feelings I couldn't express verbally. There was a place I belonged and people that I fit in with because I was an artist. I created an identity that was solace from the bad things in my life (family dysfunction and clinical depression). With art I had control over outcomes.

    Art in a structured form is not part of my life now, but in very difficult times I still take up my paint brush to give my subconscious an outlet and a focus beyond the stressful events.

    Creating beauty out of ashes is a generative form of hope.

  6. After my brother's death last summer, I didn't feel like doing much, but in the months following, the Spirit nudged me to the piano. The creative work is a little different than those that you're describing, since I'm interpreting the works of others instead of creating something brand new, but the intense effort has healed me again and again. (And I often feel the presence of my first piano teacher, who also died last summer while I'm working my hardest or feeling the most frustrated. This has helped me remember that loss is temporary, but love is eternal.)

  7. Thanks for sharing these stories. They are extremely inspiring. We all have to suffer grief and heartbreak, but these stories remind me that most of my sorrows are so tiny in comparison to a lot of huge trials people are going through.

    I think we all LOVE President Uchtdorf's talk on creativity. I remember he talked about how a huge part of Heavenly Father's nature and work is creative and that creativity is thus part of our divine nature. ["Happiness, Your Heritage: http://lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/happiness-your-heritage?lang=eng%5D [Mormon Message, Create: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhLlnq5yY7k%5D

    I love how beautiful it is that we can be creative in different ways. I love writing and music and graphic design, but I'm terrible at craft projects. Other people thrive on them. Some people are culinary artists. Some photographers. It's so wonderful that there are so many varied creative outlets out there for us to fit our personalities and seasons of life.

  8. For me, the one thing I need most during times of trial and struggle is to be understood. Words alone cannot usually convey exactly what's going on inside, and so creativity helps me to get those feelings out of me in a productive and meaningful way. In my teenage years, this turned into lots of visual art, poetry, and songwriting. One of the most fulfilling experiences came when I heard a fellow student who I didn't really know, humming the tune to song I'd written in heartbreak. That made it all worth it.

  9. I believe in the power of creativity. I believe that it aids the healing process. I believe that it rejuvenates and energizes tired souls.

    I loved Kerri's comment, "loss is temporary, but love is eternal." I think this very truth is why creativity is so healing. When we create we are making new things and that is a powerful antidote to loss.

    Being consciously creative has helped me in own personal times of sorrow. It also helps me deal with the stress of the unknown and changes. This year I set creativity goals–far from stifling, I have found those goals have pushed me to make time to create the things I love. I've given myself permission to make creating a part of my to-do list. It has as much importance to me as making dinner for my family. As a result, I've been extraordinarily creative. I feel happier, more energized and uplifted.

  10. This was lovely. I haven't (yet) experienced the kind of wrenching events you describe here, but I come away feeling inspired by the post (and the exquisite photographs).

  11. Michelle – I think this is one of the most beautiful, compassionate posts you've written. Thank you for introducing us to Lisa. You were right, I love her blog. She is inspiring. As are you.

    I'm so grateful for the power to create, It is divine, makes us like Him, bring us to Him. I'm encouraged after your post to make more time for these kind of outlets.

    And Kerri – I'm with Sharlee. Nothing cheesy about your line. "Loss is temporary." Oh so true. Thank you.

  12. I agree with Catherine that we are closest to God when we are creating something, because the ability to create is our divine heritage.

    No wonder being involved in that process is so healing.

    Great post.


  13. Great post, Michelle.

    I have always felt creativity is therapeutic. I think dance, poetry and painting helped me survive my adolescence.

    Poems have helped me distill difficult feelings into something I could hold and analyze, and painting (and music) have helped challenge my mind and feel more alive in the moment.

    Loved Pres. Uchdorf's talk on creativity and agree our divinity increases as we learn to express our own abilities.

    Thanks for the post and links.

  14. This is so very touching Michelle. I often fear the loss of one of my children, but this gave me hope that if something so tragic were to happen, there would be ways to heal. Thanks!

  15. I'm the eldest of three sisters minus one which passed three years ago. Due to us all having come to endure the effects of the deteriorating effects of muscular dystrophy since the age of seven, we three weren't free to play or do as most kids and then teens, and developing young women. Finding ways to stir our creativity was sometimes a struggle. However our grandmother was a wonderful creative and highly gifted seamstress. She'd sit us three at the dining room table with scraps of beautiful fabrics, ribbons, threads, sequences and everything a seamstress could have and three wide eyes girls wallow in! Enough for all!
    We'd spend hours designing patters and measuring our dolls whether baby dolls or barbies. They had bigger wardrobes than us!
    This gift grandmother taught us has awakened in us two remaining sisters to expand our own gifts of creativity and service. My sister can create anything from just about any four items! Beautiful blankets, hairpins, decorative pins to wear and crafts of any kind.
    I moved to writing and creating a little museum of photographs, prints and paintings in a few rooms in my home by understanding the wonderful ways colors, sizes, accessories from spending hours sitting by my sisters and a patient grandmother teaching us that no disease can or should hinder our minds.


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