How Creativity Can Heal Your Heart (Even if You're Not Creative!)

How Creativity Can Heal Your Heart
(Even if You're Not Creative)

Funny thing about tragedy, it often makes the creative mind wake up. Suddenly your thoughts are not the same as they were yesterday. Your brain comes alive with activity. It recalls memories, heightens imagination, and in a flash you view life through different eyes. Your life is in chaos and your mind cries out to restore peace and harmony. It never rests. 
On the night of my son’s death, exhausted, I lay down on the couch and closed my eyes. I wrapped myself into a ball and sought comfort in a cocoon of sadness. I heard only the din of voices from all of those who gathered in our home to support us through that tragic day.
My brain suddenly came alive. It awakened a compartment of memories, long since forgotten. The projector in my mind was an endless Playlist of Garrett’s life. It was as clear as if the events happened yesterday. I saw him as a baby, crawling in front of the shiny brass chest, amused by his own image. I could hear his voice in my head when he first learned to talk as his first word, “kitty” sputtered from his lips in delight. The memories were vivid with colors, and smells, and raw emotion. 
It felt as though I could touch him and actually hear his voice, so real and yet so unsatisfying because reality would abruptly hit me hard... my beautiful boy was gone from my arms forever. And then, I’d feel tears falling from my eyes, but my voice had no sound. I was afraid to cry out because it might erase the pictures in my head. If I could just have stayed there, in that moment, that dreamy state where I was with him. That was the only place my heart wanted to be. 
In the days that followed, I shared my days with the reality of life and the dream state of memories. My mind had never been so active. It was the beginning of awakening to creating a world where I had to feel and embrace life in other ways. My mind was capable of so much more than I thought! It was a transition I didn’t expect from loss. 
How often have you heard artists and writers say some of the best work of their lives were born out of suffering? It can be the catalyst for your creative world waking up.
I found great comfort in something the Zen Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said. He compared death to a cloud in the sky. When it disappears, it doesn’t mean the cloud has died. The cloud continues in another form like rain or snow.
If you look up to the sky and the cloud is no longer there, the sky is just showing you a new way of looking at the cloud. Don’t be sad, the cloud is now rain that waters your garden.
So now you must plant a garden and watch the flowers grow. When you see the flowers in full bloom, you gather them and make a bouquet for your kitchen table.
The next day you can photograph them or paint them. Frame your photograph or painting
The garden I created for my son, Garrett's Garden
and hang it on your wall and know that every time you look at it, it will remind you of the beauty of your child in a new form.
Do you see how you are the creator of your future, now?
If you’re struggling with a difficult challenge, or loss, or tragedy, you will never be closer to God and creativity than you are right now.  I call it the “miracle of creativity” borne from the troubled mind.
I often think about who I was as a little girl and how even a finger painting left me feeling as though I'd done something remarkable. People say, "Oh no, I'm not creative." But look at your childhood. A popsicle stick transformed into a stick puppet was hours of fun, and a bucket of sand became a sand castle for a fairy tale. 
It doesn’t matter how good you thought it was, or what others thought. Your memory of doing it may have been jaded by teachers’ grades or comments from others, but none of that matters now. Whatever you create now is perfect because God is compelling you to soothe the upheaval in your mind.
When my son died, I created my rose garden during my bereavement. It brought me a place of comfort and peace, taught me about the cycles of life and became a memorial to my child.
I also found creativity at the ceramics studio where I painted bowls, pitchers, and platters with roses. I often took my children to the studio, and they, too, came alive with artistic ability. Everyone received hand painted gifts that year.
I painted this on a day when memories flooded
my emotions. It brought me peace
Today, I painted flowers on a glass jar. I saw something similar in a catalog, so I just made my own version of it. It made me happy.
While the critical thinking of your left brain tells you that sadness is everywhere and can never be any different, your right brain, the creative side, is screaming that it needs to create peace and harmony in new ways. Whether you express words in a journal, paint on a canvas, tend a garden, paint a room, or create new recipes, anything creative will help soothe the biochemistry in your brain.

Recently on Hay House Radio, I heard Dr. Christiane Northrup (internationally known for her empowering stance on women's health and wellness) say that creativity is a powerfully important therapeutic tool. It's as important to your well being as exercise and a healthy diet. 
As your creativity and your creations evolve, you will recognize your loss or challenge is represented in new forms.  In my son’s death, I gave him life in the birth of his story in my book, How to Survive the Worst that can Happen. I chose to write about him in hopes that my story will help people like you get through the worst time in your life, whether it be the loss of your beautiful child, loss of a loved one, a difficult divorce, financial struggles, or losing a home.
There’s a purpose in what you’re experiencing right now, and I urge you to resurrect creativity to help you through. Your purpose will be unveiled and become your guiding light into the next part of your life. 
For me, my purpose in experiencing the loss of my beautiful son gave him everlasting life in allowing me to help others...and for that I know he is with me forever. 
Is there something that you do that brings you joy? Think with your child heart. It's there, trust me. Create it and send me a picture! I’ll post it!

Stepping Stones: Creative Activities To Heal Chaos
  • Art is a very powerful way in which to process memories, challenges, and feelings. It gives you an opportunity to work with senses such as touch, sight, and feeling. Try an art class where you feel no pressure to be perfect.
  •  Go to a local ceramics studio where you can learn to work with clay or paint. Working with your hands and painting allows you to explore shapes and colors.   
  • Photography brings instant pleasure. With the ease of digital cameras and cell phones today, there are so many options to create beautiful works of art. Look into programs like iPhoto and Instagram for many creative ways to publish and print.
  • Music is another outlet for creative expression. Music tunes the heartstrings and opens up sensory emotions to feeling life in a new way. Sing, if you like to sing. Dance if you like to dance. Play the piano, or learn a new instrument. You will be surprised how your brain is open to music because it soothes the soul.
  • Create Playlists of music in iTunes. Music offers a way to instantly transform mood and can change your state of being. Create Playlists for different feelings. I have lists that make me happy, a list for my tears, a list for dancing, a list for reflecting, and a list to help me power up to face the day.
  • Writing is a powerful tool of expression and healing. Start a blog about your journey or a subject that inspires you. The easiest way to do this is to sign up on through Google. Write poetry of your feelings.       
  • Begin the book you've always wanted to write. Now is the time to tell your story.
    Besides it being a great tool for your own healing, others will benefit from reading your grief journey. You can choose to publish or not. This is for your recovery.
     My book, How to Survive the Worst that can Happen, is my tribute to healing after the loss of my beautiful son. In his death, I gave him life and legacy by using it to help others heal.

I urge you to find your creative gifts and you'll find a valuable tool to redirect your sadness, challenges and frustrations into clarity, peace, acceptance, and yes, even joy. I promise, borne out of your creativite spirit is a new life waiting to unfold. 

Share your stories of creativity with me. I would love it.
Best wishes and joy,

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She also hosts a radio show in Northern CA on KRXA AM Talk Radio.
Visit my website and sign in to 
download my FREE ebook 
Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

Email: contact:

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

The Pursuit of Happiness...10 Traits of Resilient People

The Pursuit of Happiness...
10 Traits of Resilient People, Revealed

Someone once told me I was the Queen of Resilience. I wear that crown proudly, because it represents all that I am, all that I've experienced, and the potential that I see for my future. My story is one of incredible love, and devastating heartbreak. It’s a story of deep loss, and unimaginable tragedy. And yet, it’s a story of victory and triumph. It's a very full life.
And it's all mine.
Have you claimed your Crown of Resilience...
Why Wait...Do it now!
I could have chosen to not survive. I could have chosen to blame others, be mad at God, or be angry for the rest of my life. Instead, I chose life… my life… a happy life. 

I used to wake up every morning with joy. But after my son died, the foggy bliss would quickly shift as my brain roused from sleep. It would hit me, and the bliss would dissolve quickly into waves of sadness. My inner voice told me that sorrow was my only option.

One morning I awoke to the sounds of my baby boy, Jackson, giggling. He was just a year old when I lost Garrett. He was laughing at the sun as it poured into the room and every time he looked at it, it made him sneeze, one sneeze after another.  His giggling was infectious and I burst into laughter. The sound of my own laughter was almost unrecognizable to me. I hadn't heard it in so long. Funny, I couldn’t find a bit of sadness in that early morning moment, only joy.

On that day I had a mystical magical revelation. I realized happiness is a choice you get to make every day as the sun rises. 

I was a "grieving parent," but suddenly that label was at war with my other designation... being the mother of a beautiful, laughing, happy baby boy. 

That was the beginning of my Queendom, reigning over my own happiness. Every morning I woke up with that choice. Happy or sad? It was choice. I chose happy most of the time. I say “most” because I know tears are important too. But the choice was mine. 

Because my mission is to spread happiness, I did a lot of research and observing what makes some people resilient and others not. The difference is how you choose to reign over your life.
The Kingdom of Resilience is filled with
beauty, joy, success, love
and most of all, the ability to bounce back!

Here are the traits of those who dwell in the Kingdom of Resilience:

1. They are optimistic
They know that life is about the sum total of experiences that make a successful, resilient life. There's a difference between just feeling positive and being optimistic. Being optimistic are the feelings that the present moment is in an optimum state. The concept of optimism is that the past, present, and future all contribute to everything being perfect as it should be. Therefore, the failures are as important as the successes for awakening new ideas and re-thinking new pathways to success and happiness. 

2. They look great most of the time.
How do you show up in the world? Your appearance is the first thing that people see. When we’re grocery shopping, at yoga class, or at work, we’re being seen and assessed by those around us. I’ve run into my clients more times than I can tell you at yoga or the grocery store. It doesn’t take much more effort to put on a nice pair of yoga pants and a cute work-out top. Same for the grocery store… just stop and put on a swipe of lipstick and check your hair before going in. Trust me, your next potential client, friend, or soul mate could be asking you to help pick out the sweetest peaches in the produce section. It happened to me!
3. They take steps to break the pattern of fear and worry in life.
You ask any successful person if they had fear going to their next level and they will tell you yes...but their passion made their fear work for them. In Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the Work,” he says Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance even when he was 75. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. It’s a battle that must be fought by dynamic people every day.

4. They post responsibly on Facebook and Twitter
Social networking is here to stay and it’s time we establish the ground rules. Remember this is one more reflection of who you are. Think before you post and always with intention. My goal on social networking is to establish my community. In addition to family and friends, my clients are on Facebook. I want them to know me and trust me. Treat Facebook like a neighborhood. Our front yards are always mowed and we enjoy sharing with our neighbors and friends, but what goes on inside the house is nobody’s business. Of course we can share our lives, our frustrations, and our joys, but
Here's the other part of the picture above... and the story.
Sometimes a Queen of Resilience loses a husband, but then
finds wonderful new love later in life. 
just like our neighborhood, we have to all get along and some things are best kept in private. Please, think before you post. One more thing, my husband found me on Facebook! I believe in the power of connection!
5. They get out of the house and do something to break the pattern of feeling blue.
If you’re feeling down, visit a zoo, a pet shelter, the ocean, or a park. Even a trip to the grocery store will force you to get yourself out of the house and talking to people. Make a point of saying something nice to someone you encounter. It will make their day and in turn, the goodness they feel will bounce right back to you.
6. They have a playful, creative spirit that feeds their child heart.
Many people believe they’re not creative, but everyone is. Just look back to your childhood. Did you build a sand castle at the beach? Did you finger paint on giant sheets of butcher paper? Did you make cabins with popsicle sticks? Did you mold animals with Play Doh? It didn’t matter how good you thought it was, or what others thought, you did it because it made you happy. Start by taking photos of flowers and the sunsets with your smart phone. Print and frame them. Try painting a glass vase with acrylic paint and when it’s dry, fill it with flowers! Start a blog or write a silly poem! Play an instrument, sing a song! Go to a ceramics studio and paint a bowl with cherries. Now your life is just a bowl of cherries! Remember...always keep your child heart.
7. They know that what they do for a living is one of the highest spiritual expressions of who they are.
I'm learning now, more than ever that our jobs are often the highest expression of our spirits. A huge responsibility! Think about it, we spend the majority of our lives working our jobs. Resilient people like what they do (most of the time). It’s also the reason resilient people are highly successful. 

8. They've learned that resistance is a force of nature and fight hard to keep it out of the Kingdom of Resilience.
Author Steven Pressfield defines resistance as “ a repelling force. It’s negative. It’s aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”  Resistance can manifest itself in different spending too much time on Facebook when you have a writing deadline, or avoiding phone calls that might change your life. Anything that stops you from the best use of your time or prevents you from becoming your best self is resistance. Get your sword and armor and start fighting back.
9. They have a mindfulness daily practice.
Mounting evidence reveals that more and more highly successful people either meditate, pray, or have some sort of spiritual practice they do every day. It is proven to increase emotional well-being, improve focus, enhance creativity, lower stress, encourage better sleep habits, and revitalize health. Wouldn’t you trade 15 minutes of your day to guarantee success?

Here's your crown to print and cut out. I will send you this
AND my FREE ebook:
Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life
Email me at the email below and put "Crown" in the 
 subject line 
10. They know that nothing ever stays the same. Ever. When you try to hold onto something, or someone, or keep everything the same, that’s the moment when change will happen. When you have a challenge, recognize it as a time to grow in faith and strength. 

At first, I thought my  journey in life had been defined by loss, but actually my story is about triumph. Resilience has helped me see what’s most important and has taught me that I am stronger and more successful than I ever imagined. 

Once you’ve become enlightened, you can never go back and be unenlightened. Now, you’re transformed. 

May I present you with your own Crown of Resilience? I’m pretty sure if you follow these steps and you proudly wear the crown, you, too, will bounce back from anything that comes your way and reign over a life well lived.

Best wishes and love,

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She also hosts a radio show in Northern CA on KRXA AM Talk Radio.
Visit my website and sign in to 
download my FREE ebook 
Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

Email: contact:

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

Choose Happy… 9 Steps to Re-Writing your Fairy Tale

Choose Happy…
9 Steps to Re-Writing your Fairy Tale

A few years ago, I turned fifty. Well, perhaps a little more than a few, but on that monumental half century mark, my world turned upside down.

Looking back on my “lifeline,” I entered my 42nd year, believing I had the perfect fairy-tale life.  I was happily married with four children. My husband was an Emmy-nominated writer/producer in the television industry. In fact, he wrote for a series that was a modern day fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast on CBS, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perelman.

I was first, a wife and mother, and second, I worked alongside my husband as his editor and manager of our production company. Occasionally I took acting roles. It was a glitzy fun life.

Toward the end of my pivotal 42nd year, my life became a series of assaults on my castle.
A week before Christmas, my 16 year old son woke up with a fever. The doctor diagnosed him with the flu. The next morning, I went to awaken him. He was dead. The misdiagnosis was bacterial meningitis.

The aftermath was the tragic and painful charted course of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ultimately, acceptance.

Except my husband never got to “acceptance,” instead, he ran away somewhere at the “anger” stage into the deep dark forest of my fairy tale.

By the end of the fourth decade of life, my husband wanted a divorce. His journey to escape grief ultimately killed him. He died suddenly at 54, and it broke my heart.

Chaos, utter chaos. I had no option but to defend my castle. The future I thought I had, suddenly disappeared. As part of the Baby Boomer generation, we were taught to get an education, get married, and live an abundant life. But it never prepared us for the unexpected, like…the death of a child, the loss of a husband, or the loss of a home or income.

I chose to look at this change differently… as though I was 20 and my whole life was ahead of me. I pretended I was full of options, and failure wasn’t one of them. I was on a mission. I had 3 children to support!

I created a plan for re-writing the tragedy of my fairy tale and choosing a happy life. The plan
included specific practices and steps… and they were non-negotiable.

9 Steps to Choosing Happy

1. Choose Happy:  When you wake up, your only choice should be to choose happy. You’re alive and blessed with another day. When you’ve suffered a loss, it’s not a life sentence. You learn to love harder, and never take waking up for granted again.

2. Feed the Spirit:  Read at least 15 minutes every day from inspirational and motivational books.  This is an important fuel for “happy.” It sort of “talks you into it,” when you can’t resurrect the feeling of “happy” for yourself.

3. Chaos is the Door to Transition: William Bridges, author ofThe Way of Transition” wrote:  “Change can happen at any time, but transition comes along when one chapter of your life is over and another is waiting in the wings to make its entrance.”  You can’t transition without chaos.

4. Surround Yourself with People Who Love You and Share Laughter. Avoid negative people! Remember, laughter is the buffer for difficult times. Find a friend who makes you laugh, or a funny movie, or watch something on YouTube! Laughter literally changes your body chemistry.

5. Create Something:  Everyone can create something whether it’s a garden, a poem, a painting, building a sand castle, cooking, etc.  You can be the most creative when you’re going through tough times because your brain longs for positive stimulation. Oddly enough…chaos fuels creativity. Go ahead, light the fire.
6. Use Symbols to Trigger Faith:  Choose symbols to remind you you’re alive with possibility. Roses are symbols of undying love and resilience. They’re cut back every year, enduring snow and frost, and yet they come back with glorious blooms each spring.  Your symbol can be in the form of a stone, a rose, anything that has special meaning. Clutch it, touch it and say to yourself: All things are possible.
7. Fuel your Body with Neurochemicals:  No…you can’t find them in pill form at the pharmacy, but you can manufacture them in your body.  Eating well and exercising is even more important when in crisis. Exercise releases “feel good” hormones into the brain.

8. Change a bad day by doing something for someone else. It’s the give and take that creates the tapestry of our lives.  

9.  Trust that everything is perfect right now. If it seems imperfect it’s just the perfect order of how things have to happen.

What I learned from my perfectly imperfect life is that everyone has a fairy tale life. After all, what are fairy tales but stories of triumph over adversity. No one is immune to having challenges, sorrows, and loss. Is there such a thing as happily ever after? Not during your lifetime. “Happily ever after” is a phrase used in fairy tales to hold the promise of a happy ending...That only happens at the end of your life, after you’ve lived a full life. It’s what you do now that will hold the promise of a happy ending.

I’m now in my 6th decade of life. I’m supporting my castle, I’ve put my children through college, and life continues to awaken me with awe and possibility. I met my prince charming two years ago, married… and my intention is to live happily ever after. I expect more bumps in the road, but guess what? I know I can handle anything that comes my way.

You see, a resilient life is about taking the sum total of all of the joys and sorrows, finding a path for resilience, and never giving up until you’ve triumphed.

                                              Best wishes and joy,

10 Things Surviving the Loss of a Child Teaches You about Life

10 Things Surviving the Loss of a Child Teaches You... 

...about Life

One thing is certain, I still stumble over the question, “How many children do you have?” With it comes the dread of my brain conflicting with my heart and the devastating truth. Then, it becomes a decision as to how much I want to reveal, how long will I know this person, and if I hold back, will I once again feel as though I’ve betrayed the memory of my beautiful son that tragically died at the age of 16 years, 3 months, and 10 days.

It’s been many years since the loss of my child, and with each year I accrue more wisdom from the experience and from listening to other parents like me. We’re connected on a level that most people could never understand, and the very thought of it brings up the fear that it could actually happen to them. That’s why people say, “It’s the worst that could happen.” Because it is.

Through the years, we, as parents who have experienced the worst and in time, have regained our quality of life, have also learned some things that many people don’t know. It’s that intimate knowledge from such a tragic loss that can give you the awakening for an even greater life, if you let it.

Here’s what we know:

  1. We can’t control the lives or destiny of our children, or anyone for that matter.
  2. Love harder now. You might not get the chance tomorrow.
  3. All we can count on is now. Never take a single day for granted. Pay attention to every breath you take, it keeps you present.
  4. Always tell your children how much you love them and look in their eyes when you do. Sometimes we just assume they know.
  5. No child dies without leaving a legacy and a purpose for those that are left behind. For me it was writing to help others heal.
  6. Mourning is not a plan for healing. Healing takes hard work and a commitment to wanting joy in your life again.
  7. In order to heal you have to live in harmony with others. You can’t push people away, you have to let them love you through this. In time, you can do the same for them.
  8. People often say the wrong thing but their intention is borne from love. Forgive them.
  9. Cry your tears deeply now because some day you will miss them.
  10. Love is a connection and a force of energy that doesn't diminish as you heal from the loss of your child. Your love will not even fade...In fact, it will continue to grow. How amazing is that!

And that last point is the one I’m encouraging you to think about. If you’ve just lost your child, know that the love for your child will always be with you. In fact, you’ll miss the depths of the grief you feel now because it connects you to your child in a way that holds you close in the arms of a love so deep, you feel it in every breath. You and your child are one forever.

It’s been years now, and I’ve worked hard through the 5 stages of grief, defined by noted grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

I’ve discovered in my own recovery that my loss didn’t end with “acceptance.”

While acceptance is a critical step, it simply wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to spring off of acceptance and feel happy again, not resigned. For me, there was a very necessary 6th stage of grief. It’s what I call “resilience.”

Resilience is the ability within you to bounce back. Grief is not a life sentence. It’s the sorrow borne out of loss, but it doesn’t take away the possibility of feeling happiness and joy in your life again. You have an opportunity to honor your child by healing.

Healing for me wasn’t like crossing the finish line of a marathon. It was more like arriving on the other side with a soft gentle agreement that I have indeed found acceptance and opened a space in my heart to feel joy again.

Which brings me back to who I was before the loss of my son. I didn’t know then, I had a force inside of me that was so strong it wouldn’t let my spirit die. It’s the same force that we see in nature when a seed bursts out of it’s husk and starts to grow, or when a baby chick finds the power to rupture it’s shell to see a greater world. It’s the power of renewal, and we all have it, it just needs to be broken open.

l know that now.

Best wishes and love,

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She also hosts a radio show in Northern CA on KRXA AM Talk Radio. Blog:    
book website:
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