What is Grief Doodling?

“Is it straight?” asked the activities director. She was hanging 21 pictures I contributed to a retirement community art exhibit. The pictures are doodle art, a combination of doodling, comics, and folk art. I turned to this art form when I was caring for my husband, John.

My husband was dying. John knew it and I knew it. We rarely talked about his impending death because we’d talked about almost everything during 63 years of marriage. I’m a freelance writer and John was my biggest fan; I wanted to keep my career going for John and myself.

To complicate matters, I had to quarantine for two weeks because I tested positive for Covid (no symptoms) and two more weeks because of a visit to the emergency room. For me, working from home is normal, and I wrote and illustrated Grief Doodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles while quarantined.

‘They Make Me Smile’

After John died on November 28, 2020, I turned his bedroom into my art studio and continued with doodle art.

While my pictures were being hung, people walked by, commenting “Wow!” to “I love the colors” to “They make me smile.” One woman stopped and looked at each picture. We talked about making art and our lives. I told her about my doodle art, shared comments, and said “cute” was often-used word. She shook her head vehemently. “These pictures aren’t cute,” she declared. “You turned inward and chose joy.”

Grief Doodling Helped Me Choose Joy

How did I choose joy? How can you choose it?

Be grateful for what you have. Time and again, after John died, I sat in silence and counted my blessings—a beautiful marriage, family, friends, food, clothing, and home. I live in the apartment we shared and feel John’s presence daily.

Practice thought-stopping. Dr. Heidi Horsley and Dr. Gloria Horsley detail the technique in their book, Teen Grief Relief. When grief gets in your way, tell yourself to stop grieving for a while. If this is difficult, wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it to help you focus.

Let nature help you heal. I always have flowering plants in my apartment. Watching plants grow brings me joy. I also enjoy sitting in the park across the street. Looking at centuries-old oak trees and flying birds is calming. Nature may calm you as well.

Find a buddy. I’ve been a widow for just over a year. To help me track this grief journey, I asked another widow to be my grief buddy. She agreed. We meet weekly and learn from each other — including that each person’s grief is unique.

Build on love. John’s love is part of my soul and always will be. I’m living a new life in his memory and honor of our years together. One thought keeps me going: Love is stronger than grief.

Though you may not know it yet, you have the power to choose joy.

Read more by Harriet Hodgson on Open to Hope: https://www.opentohope.com/get-a-grief-buddy/

Check out the writer’s website: Harriet Hodgson


Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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