Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Symphony of Grief and Creativity-by Heidi McLaughlin

Grief is a mysterious monster. It lunges us into deep dark places seeking the once familiar pathway of love. It longs to recapture the beautiful rhythm of shared experiences, intimate conversations and physical touch.

Grief is love with no place to go.

At one time my relationship with my beloved Jack was like listening to an exquisitely tuned symphony on a magical summer evening. Perfectly crafted sounds and rhythms that felt like a touch of Heaven. Grief steals that flawless balanced harmony and now all I wanted to do was hide and cover my ears to drown out the screeching and wretched sounds.  Will that musical masterpiece ever be heard and felt once again? Does grief and pain sabotage our future creativity and ability to craft beautiful lyrics?

Grief has a profound affect on our brain.  Through cortisol chemicals being released in the body, the brain is scrambled and unpredictable. Details are foggy, internal reactions are shifted and concentration is compromised. We lose interest in things, find ourselves unable to smile or laugh, we can’t eat or sleep and we’re emotionally numb.  With all this disruption on our physical, emotional and psychological state, what happens to our creativity for writing, painting or writing a new symphony?

Pain takes us into unfamiliar and unpleasant places.

Yet each time we are thrust into deeper places, our mind expands with greater understanding, priorities and images. Once the fog disappears, images and colours are brighter, notes are clearer and we’re more courageous with our words and descriptions. Pain opens up another world that gives us permission to think and create outside predictable clichés and nuances.  Barbara Lane in her article on “How Grief Affects the Brain” states: Grief provides some of the low notes of our lives that make it a richer symphony overall.”[1]  In fact, we’ll fearlessly embrace new words and notes that synthesize exceptional beauty and harmony.

Some of the greatest cultural masterpieces are the byproduct of pain and grief. Homer’s “lliad” tragedy is among the oldest extant works of Western literature and written around 8th century B.C.  C.S. Lewis ‘ greatest works, one being “The Problem of Pain” was written after the death of his beloved wife. The single mother, billionaire and ninth best-selling fiction author of all time, J.K. Rowling, makes no secret of the fact she deals with depression and pain. Doctor and author Henry Seiden goes even further to say:

“Creativity is the essential response to grief.” [2]

Twelve months after my beloved Jack died I attempted to carve out time to write my next book. Frustration set in and I felt inadequate as I wrote predictable sentences with lack of insight and creativity.  At the time I thought I was ready to write another 60,000 words but my brain knew better. I will still foggy and disjointed.  This year in the month of May I tried writing another chapter and this time excitement seared through my body as words, images and concepts flowed in harmony like the beginning of a new symphony. During my time in the dark and deep, the harsh life and loneliness gave way to the emergence of a magnificent new sonata.  It won’t look like my previous ones, but I believe these will have more depth, colour and harmony. Lord may it be so.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at;, or her website:

[2] /2017/04/18/grief-creativity-together/

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

I appreciate your open, vulnerable sharing, Heidi. I found your analogous musical references interesting. For me, they evoked emotional texture as I read, probably because music has had - and continues to occupy - a fairly large space in my life. I'm so glad that the melodious strains of creative writing have begun to flow through you again. ~~+~~

Popular Posts