HOW TO MOVE THROUGH THE VALLEY OF TRAGEDY AND FIND YOURSELF IN THE ASHES.
Have you ever had your life burn to the ground? Maybe not in a physical fire, but in a way where everything you had come to know and believe was tested.
A few months ago I wrote a post about a tragedy that had struck my family. In it I said that I would return to this blog once I was able to help my family walk through the death of my sister-in-law. I knew it would be hard, but I was not prepared for the toll it would take on our family, as well as my ability to feel like I had anything to creatively give.
In the wake of my sister-in-laws passing it was like a fog had set in around my life. Thinking was hard to do and creating was even harder. I had nothing to give. Our family had lost someone tragically and we were hurting. My marriage was hurting. I was hurting.
I can remember well intentioned friends telling me to keep creating through the pain. They said it would help. They said it would be good for others to see me create as I journeyed through the wrestle of life and death. I wanted to… but I couldn’t.
Day after day I told myself that I needed to begin to write and create again. I felt that I wasn’t being true to myself if I didn’t step beyond the hurt and pain to create something meaningful. I mean, all the great artists of our day create through tragedy…right? All of these thoughts left me thinking that I was simply a poser and that I really didn’t have anything to offer.
I was hurting.
I was scared.
I was lost.
Have you ever been there?
Finding yourself at the crossroads between what used to bring you joy and what now seems to be something you dread and can’t even dream of doing again. Maybe you’re there right now.
If so, let me simply say, I’ve been there and I know it’s cold, dark, and lonely. But trust me when I say you are not alone. When tragedy strikes, whether that is death, loss, or a broken dream, it takes a toll on us. What we thought we knew doesn’t seem to be true anymore. What we hoped would always be there is gone and out of reach.
What do you do when you question if hope will ever return to you?
Through my storm (no mine isn’t over yet) I have learned more lessons that I could share. But…what I have learned is there are a few simple truths that I believe can help us, as artists and creatives, move forward when tragedy destroys our life and our art.
Here are 3 simple truths that helped me find myself through tragedy.
- GIVE IT TIME.
In the wake of tragedy everything seems to be upside down. It’s hard to figure out where to go or what to do. Often you feel numb, unsure, and somewhat crazy. As artist you might lose the desire to do the very thing that you felt defined you. When this happens it’s scary because not only are you dealing with tragedy, but now you are dealing with the potential loss of your identity.
This is where I found myself only a few short weeks after the “you know what” hit the fan. As a musician I didn’t want to play, I didn’t want to write, and I wondered if I would ever have the desire to again. Let me just say that scared the crap out of me! I didn’t talk about it much because I didn’t want it to be true. I fought it and fought, but I couldn’t seem to escape it’s grasp.
Now looking back I can see that I needed one thing and one thing only…time. Time was the only medicine that brought me to a place to create again, to give again. I couldn’t force it. I couldn’t will myself into it. I just couldn’t. Don’t worry if you are in this place, you will create again…you just need some time.
- GAIN NEW PERSPECTIVE.
Once you have had some time to process everything and allow hope and creativity to flood your soul again, you might be surprised at what you learn about yourself. You might even see your art in a different light. For me I was able to gain clarity on who and what I wanted my art to be about. Before I was focused on my art being for me. How could I gain followers. How could I make money. These ideas plagued me, but after life kicked me in the gut I was able to see that my perspective was wrong. So, take some time to look inward…think, reflect, and allow yourself to gain the much needed perspective on your art. You might be shocked what you find.
- TALK IT OUT.
If you are anything like me it’s easier to express yourself through your art than it is to talk about it. I can put my emotions into a song and artistically express how I feel, but talking about them is a totally different story. But as I have walked through the last few months I confidently can say that talking with someone (a friend or a counselor) is a great way to untangle the nots that tragedy ties. Don’t feel weird about it, even thought it might be hard at first, because talking about what’s going on allows you to move forward and find hope once again.
- LEAN ON GOD FOR HOPE AND STRENGTH.
Even though this is the fourth point it doesn’t make it less powerful. In fact, if I were to tell you to do only one of these four lessons I would say do this one. I grew up in the church so you would think this would come naturally, but it doesn’t. I can tell you though, that walking through the darkest part of my life has taught me how to truly lean into God for hope and strength. Before all of this, if you asked if I trusted God you would have hear me say, “of course”, but it was only in walking through the “valley of the shadow of death” that I began to truly understand what it meant to lean on God. Although I don’t wish harm on anyone of you, I do hope that you can learn to truly trust God through your valleys. He is the only one who can help you in times of trouble. Lean on Him.
So tell me, have you had tragedy slap you in the face? What lessons did you learn as you walked through your valley?
P.S. These are only a few lessons I have learned over the last few months, and I hope to be sharing more with you soon. I will be jumping back on my weekly posts from now on and I hope you will continue reading along. I goal is to inspire you through fear and frustration to begin to create your art, the art this world needs to see.