Category: Mom & Dad’s DIY Grief Therapy Hacks

Re-purposing Condolence cards

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I recently finished The Minimalists’ 30-day challenge to get rid of things every day for 30 days. Since the passing of my late husband, I’ve been slowly doing this already, ( READ on my other site: His Stuff. My Treasure.) but there was a lot I just sort of shoved into a corner hoping maybe it’d just fade away…but we all know that’s not the way it works. There were things I wanted to keep, but really didn’t want to just keep in a box to collect dust and I’m not thrilled with the idea of an alter or shrine that displays all of my husband’s things, that’s when I got the idea to start incorporating memories of my former life into my daily life in the form of art; in other words, re-purposing my grief. Making the memories beautiful and functional at the same time. So when I was going through things to get rid of for the challenge, I knew I just had to do something with the huge, 6-inch thick stack of condolence cards I received (warning: So sorry the resolution is terrible, but it’s good enough for you to get the gist of what’s going on. I know, I know I need a better camera for blog photos…I’ll get there…eventually, and I’ll re-take these. Sorry to your eyes! I’m a writer not a photographer, eek).

But what to do with all these? I honestly didn’t really need to keep them, but they reminded me of so much goodness and kindness I just couldn’t part with them. Then I thought of an art project I could make out of them and here’s what I came up with and step-by-step instructions for how to turn your memorable cards into art you can enjoy (I plan on doing this with my wedding cards, but this can work with really anything from baby showers, to birthday, to graduation cards, etc.)

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What you will need:

  • assorted greeting cards
  • blank mat board, with the opening to fit a standard greeting card size (you could go bigger or smaller though, I’ll add to this post how to do a bigger mat when I finish the wedding cards one. If your mat is smaller, just follow the steps and cut the card strips down a little, pretty self-explanatory)
  • hot-glue gun and glue sticks
  • personal paper-trimmer with ruler

 


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STEP 1:

Cut your greeting cards into strips. Since I had quite a few I needed, I cut them into about 1/2 inch strips, but depending on how many you want to use you could go bigger, I just wouldn’t go smaller than 1/4 inch or they’ll be too flimsy to weave.

*Tip #1: If you want to keep the messages in the cards before you cut them up you can save the part of the card with the messages, or take a photo or scan them to keep on file. I personally didn’t feel the need to keep the messages, as the final product is enough of a reminder for me.

*Tip #2: I color coordinated the greeting cards so there would be some unity in the final product. Warm colors, cool colors, and dark colors etc.

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STEP 2:

Take your hot glue gun and glue each strip to the back of the mat. The colored side you want showing face-down as you will be weaving through the back of the mat. Glue all the strips down on the top leaving the bottom of the strip free. Glue all the way across the mat until it’s covered. The closer together you glue the strips, the tighter the weaving will be, the further a part the more space you will see in between if you like that look, do it! See photo for a better explanation:

Back of the Mat

Back of the Mat

 

Front of the mat

Front of the mat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It should look like this from the front when you’re done with this step.

 

STEP 3:

Take your other strips and start weaving front to back through the glued strips on the mat. See photo for better explanation:

What the weaving will look like from the back

What the weaving will look like from the back

What the weaving will look like from the front

What the weaving will look like from the front

Keep weaving until you’ve reached the bottom of the mat. The end gets a little tricky, but be patient and it’ll work out. *Tip: push up the previous strips you’ve already weaved to make a tighter weaved look and to make more room for your awaiting strips.

When you’re finished, take your hot glue and glue all the remaining strips down on the sides and on the bottom of the mat.

This is what it should look like after gluing all the free strips down. (From the front. It's OK if the back is messy with glue, no one will see that.

This is what it should look like after gluing all the free strips down. (From the front. It’s OK if the back is messy with glue, no one will see that.

 

STEP 4:

Add your own touches to the piece. Head to your local craft store and get creative. Find a decal that represents something you’d like to memorialize about your loved one (if they are condolence cards) or to tribute the occasion you got the cards. Since my handwriting is absolutely atrocious, I got some stamps with sayings I thought I might want to use and also went to the paper aisle to get somethings that might look nice. See photo versions for a better explanation:

IDEA #1

IDEA #1

I found these date tags super cheap in the paper aisle/scrapbook aisle at Hobby Lobby. My husband died in November, so I thought I might want this as a decal. I decided against it eventually because I didn’t want to remember that date–BUT you might, or you can use the date of a special occasion like a birth or wedding or graduation.

IDEA #2

IDEA #2

Not too sure about this overexposure, but you get the gist (I warned you I’m not a photographer!). Going with the date theme, I used the months that my family received these cards. The months that were the hardest and we needed the most support and encouragement. It’s nice to remember the love we received even though remembering those months is really really hard. Again, I eventually decided against this, but just as an option to give you ideas.

IDEA #3

IDEA #3

This is what I settled on. I chose a stamp with a Bible verse already on it and a blank gift tag in the paper aisle of Hobby Lobby. If you are good with fonts and lettering, go for it! I just used my glue gun and glued it down once I decided on it.

FINAL STEP: Choose a pretty frame and display it!

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Now this sits on a book shelf in my living room and whenever I see it I’m reminded of all the generous souls who lifted up my family during such a tragic time. And the cards aren’t just sitting in a box collecting somewhere. This is what I call “re-purposing grief.” Sure the memories will always be painful, but the point of it is to take items and memories and make them functional and incorporated into your life now to not remember the pain but the love. And love ALWAYS wins!

 

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Mom and Dad’s DIY therapy hack #1: Break some stuff-Part 1

Copyright: Candus Camera

 

“Wise anger is like the fire from the flint; there is a great ado to bring it out;

and when it does come, it is out again immediately.”~ Matthew Henry

The first year after the loss of my husband, I was constantly swimming with anger; anger towards cancer for stealing my husband and my children’s father, anger towards things that were said or done or weren’t said or weren’t done. I woke up with anger, I went through the day with anger and I went to bed with anger. If grief and healing were a moving machine, steeping in anger and bitterness wedges itself between the gears and stops the machine. Anger kept me at a standstill. It was a distraction from the deeper roots of my loss. Anger shut me off from myself, my family and my God, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. Yes, anger is very common in grief, it’s OK to feel it in your loss, but my anger was infecting every other part of my being on top of struggling to comprehend the trauma and tragedy I had just endured. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t do anything other than relive all the things I was angry about. I kept telling myself I was justified in my anger. So many things went wrong and if I let go of the anger, would that would mean I would be saying everything was “OK?” Logically the answer is ‘No,’ that’s not what it would mean, but anger has a funny way of distorting memories and making you cling to them for dear life. Holding onto anger catapulted me into the deep end of the pool, swimming in depression, bitterness, despair and negativity. I had to get it out some way, somehow, because I was drowning—so I chose anger as my life preserver.

I was seeing a counselor who was trying to help me process and work through my anger. One thing that helped me was EMDR, but that and the counseling cost money on top of the expense to find childcare for the therapy sessions made it difficult for me to attend consistently so my counselor suggested a cheaper therapy for me to try at home; breaking dishes.

So, one night when the kids were in bed, I went out into the garage and bagged up all my old dishes; dishes that reminded me of all the meals I had with my husband and all the conversation and memories those dishes held. Preparing meals on, washing and putting them away every day, over and over again was another staple to my making a home with him; cooking, eating, cleaning…the simple tasks that gave me a purpose, a reminder that we were a team, a family. So pulling out these dishes from packed boxes I found I was even angry at the dishes, how dare they remind me of what I had for a split second in my life, like a dangling carrot that was then ripped away. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t want to be left with dishes, I just wanted my husband back and I couldn’t, so I put all the dishes in a trash bag and then that trash bag in another trash bag and then in yet another; per the directions of my counselor. I placed the bag in the middle of the garage floor and I just stared at it for a long time, seeing if I could muster up tears or some other feeling, but nothing came. So I grabbed the sledgehammer in the corner of the garage and took a swing at the bag. It was a lame excuse for a swing, as nothing even broke and it was as if the bag was taunting me, “You can do better than that…” So I took another swing and heard a crash. Once the momentum began I swung at that bag over and over until the tears came and the anger bubbled to the surface. I don’t know how much time passed, but when I finally stopped, the once bulky bag lay tattered and flattened, all those dishes smashed to tiny pieces. I was exhausted, but felt a little bit lighter than before. There’s just something about actually seeing the result of my anger that helps to free it, seeing the pieces and the destruction rather than letting it all swirl around in my head and letting it destroy me. There’s something symbolic about being able to then pick up the pieces and toss them in the garbage. I wish I could say that one night of breaking dishes got rid of all the anger for me, but it was the first little crack in the giant dam I had built up inside me. Eventually that crack got bigger and bigger, allowing more and more emotions to flow and be felt much more easily.

 

Common sense tips for breaking stuff:

  • Do this in a place where you feel safe and your children are being taken care of by someone else (I didn’t want my children to walk in on me wielding a sledgehammer!)
  • Be intentional about it, and, I would suggest, be sober.
  • Wear eye protection if you don’t bag it up, although bagging it up means less stress (and shrapnel) about cleanup afterwards

 

*Disclosure: I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. I am merely sharing things that helped me and my family. Please refer to your or your child’s therapist to help identify grief patterns in his/her/your unique experience.