Here are a few things I do well…
1. Remember the words to songs
2. Make children laugh
4. Take photos
Here are a few things I do not do well…
1. Pay attention to detail
2. Finish things
4. Arts and crafts
I should carry this list everywhere I go to remind me of my shortcomings. And I should definitely pull this list out every time I find myself standing in front of the sliding glass doors of Michaels Arts and Crafts. And upon entering I should ask the craft store workers to hang my picture next to the OSHA poster in their break room with the caption ‘Do not sell this woman adhesives of any kind’.
I should not be allowed to attempt arts and crafts.
There are other things I’m horrible at, like cooking and baking, but I’ve accepted my limitations in these areas. It’s just crafting….when it comes to crafting….for some reason I just can’t stop trying. This is important context for the following post which was mean to be a “how-to” on making your own unique and personalized grief journal. Instead, you will have to settle for a lesson ‘how-not-to’.
One note, please don’t let my shortcomings dissuade you from attempting this yourself. There are a thousand ways to create and customize your journal and many of these are easy to do given a minor amount of planning and patience. Also, provided you don’t have 3- and 5-year-olds trying to Modge Podge your personal artifacts to their heads, like I do. In truth, if you stick with this post you’ll see, once I learned from my initial mistakes I ended up with something fairly decent.
Lesson 1: Plan Ahead
A quick search on Google or Pinterest will bring you a mind-boggling number of results on customizing and making journals. Any reasonable person would take the time to search the internet and come up with a vague blueprint for their creation. Only an impulsive person would head straight for Target and frantically pinball from aisle to aisle throwing notebooks and paperclips and scrapbooking supplies in their cart. Here are the supplies I ultimately came home with:
(NOT PICTURED: Markers, file tabs, and scissors….and yes, that’s three different types of adhesives)
Lesson 2: Understand Your Supplies
I didn’t quite know what I needed so I bought everything that looked useful. I wasn’t even sure what a few of these things were. For example, I’d never used Modge Podge before, I just felt I understood its glue-like properties because I once saw my college roomate Modge Podge a chair. Minus another 10 points: I bought the glittery kind.
I’m not sure how to accurately convey what a mess this was. Whatever you’re thinking, it was way worse.
Here’s another example, I probably shouldn’t have picked the ‘Sizzling Steakhouse’ edition of Baltimore Magazine for my magazine cutouts. I don’t find steak particularly inspiring, in fact, I’m a vegetarian.
Lesson 3: Unless your children are old enough to work independently, set aside separate time to work with children.
I decided I didn’t want to use two of my four notebooks so I gave them to my daughters. This set off a flurry of excitement about decorating their own journals and ended in nerve grinding frustration when my hands were too covered in glue to help them when their fine motor skills failed.
That being said, this is a great activity to do with your child when you’re able to focus on helping them. Plan ahead and gather photos, words, and decorations that are meaningful to them. As you’re working, talk about the different items. Let them know the journal is their special place to draw pictures and write things down (if they’re old enough). Tell them you would love to see what’s in their journal from time to time.
Lesson 4: When all else fails, start over
In the end, I had to start over, so I guess it’s good I bought all those supplies. Down to one last notebook, I took a deep breath, walked away from the chaos, and made a plan.
This time I decided to accept my artistic limitations and focus on creating a journal that will help foster creative and thoughtful writing…isn’t that the point? Yeah yeah…I guess so.
Fortunately, my remaining journal had a nice moleskin cover in my favorite color. I decided to leave the customization to a minimum, but sprinkle a few prompts throughout; this way when I can’t think of anything to journal about I can turn to a prompt. I marked the prompts with file tabs for easy access. Some of the prompts are related to emotion and grief…I was so mad when…a memory of my mother…write about the last thing that scared you..write about visiting a place where you feel close to mom…and some are more general…my favorite words…write a story about this picture.
I would hardly call it a true DIY journal because basically, it’s not; but I have to say I’m pretty happy with my end result. I hope all you non-crafters out there see making a journal personal is not so hard when you simplify the plan, and I hope all you crafty crafters out there find elaborate ways to put me to shame.
Bottom line I believe journaling is a great way to process and explore feelings and emotions and I encourage you to do it whether in a customized journal, an old notebook, or on a napkin.
For more journaling resources, check out the following articles:
- 5 Benefits of Grief Journaling
- Continuing Bonds: A Grief Journal Exercise
- Growth from Grief (and a Journaling Exercise)
- Missing Moments & Letter Writing: A Journal Exercise
- Six-Word Stories, Statements, and Exclamations: A Journaling Exercise
- Support System Superlatives: A Journaling Exercise
- Wedding Day Advice: A Journal Exercise
For more artistic endeavors, check out these posts:
- Cool Crafts for Coping: Coping Skills Fortune-Teller
- Using Art to Cope with Grief
- Coping with Death: Grief and Photography
Subscribe to ‘What’s Your Grief’ to follow my escapades in craft failures; or better yet, to receive helpful information and ideas about grief and grieving,