Oftentimes when we think of loss we may automatically think of death. However, loss comes in many forms. As military spouses we lose jobs, homes and social circles with every permanent change of station. Children lose schools and friends. So, how do we cope with and process loss?
Current studies have shown there has been a shift away from the idea that healthy and ‘successful’ grieving involves letting go of loss. Instead, there has been movement toward confronting loss and in the case of a loved one, maintaining a bond with them. While there are many theories and strategies about how to cope with loss, creative expression can have tremendous impact in getting in touch with yourself and helping you heal.
One of the most powerful creative expressions I have experienced in dealing with loss is the creation of a loss box. The loss box can be created by one person or by a family. Consideration goes into what kind of box to use and how to decorate it. Inside the box are symbolic representations of your loss. While it sounds simplistic, it is a way to not only acknowledge and honor loss, it also provides an actual container into which our emotions are placed and held. This project can be especially good with children as it may give them ways to express their emotions when they do not have the words. In talking about what materials are used and why, and what is placed in the box, we are able to connect to our emotions surrounding loss and have some control, which is often not the case.
As an example, for my loss box, I chose a plain cardboard box. I painted a tree of life on it, symbolizing that life goes on. I lined it with some wool I had felted to ‘soften the blow’ of the losses. This was part of a class project and with two other classmates, we presented our boxes to each other. Talking about the process of creating the box and what was in it was truly profound and helpful for all of us. Loss is never easy, and I am not suggesting that simply making a box will suddenly transform grief. However, it can be a step toward healing. If you choose to do this project, I hope that you find it helpful.