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Inviting Your Whole Self to the Creative Process - Workshop Takeaways

grief support last chance charlene non-linear journey Jul 18, 2023
grief workshop film fest

By: Ilana Shapiro Yahdav & Kim English Hanlon

We were so honored to be asked to present on, 'Inviting Your Whole Self to the Creative Process', at the BraveMaker Film Fest on the opening day. We loved partnering with BraveMaker CEO Tony Gapastione last year when we co-created a discussion and film guide for his first feature film, Last Chance Charlene which focuses on a writer/actress who is reeling from her brother’s suicide and trying to put her complicated life back together while making her first big break in her career. 

Tony is not only a talented filmmaker but an exceptional human being who believes passionately in diversity, equality, and inclusion through storytelling. He and his team curate and create provocative media that promotes dialogue, empathy, and understanding. He takes it one step further and makes sure that there is a safe space for dialogue which is where we come in. 

Tony noted that he has not seen any workshops at film festivals that help people to process the emotions that are elicited in the films. So, he invited us to remedy the situation and scheduled us for opening day. We had an impactful discussion with a room full of talented filmmakers, producers, and creatives. It was so rewarding to teach about grief, how it can affect the creative process, and tools to help process grief and work through writer’s block.

Below we will share 5 of the biggest takeaways from the workshop discussions:

The power of naming the experience as grief.

Because grief is defined in so many different ways, we often start our workshops by providing our own. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to a loss of any kind and is the conflicting feelings around the change/end of a familiar pattern or behavior (Grief Recovery Institute). Learning this is such a powerful tool in and of itself because people very often don’t even realize that they are grieving. It’s a true sense of freedom and healing to be able to name the experience  – grief. 

One person shared they realized changes at work and not being where they thought they would be professionally was grief. Another noted how not getting chosen for a role in a film is also a grieving experience. Taking care of a parent with dementia. Selling a childhood home. A parent’s death. There were so many powerful realizations in the room, many “aha moments” as to just how connected grief and the creative process can and are connected.  It can be a relief to better understand our experience through the lens of grief.

Grief is change. 

Change is grief. We are constantly in a state of change and grief. Our lives, our bodies, our society, our world. That is a part of life. Change and grief are not bad. Change and grief are not good. Change and grief just are.   

Whether it is experiencing a world where an important figure no longer exists in the physical realm, or navigating the changes in the film industry - we can have those conflicting feelings and symptoms of grief. To name it is to tame it.

Vocalization of our feelings is powerful. 

We *love* that word in particular - “vocalization”.  We cannot stress enough the power of being able to voice your feelings and be witnessed in doing so. It is so healing to be heard. Again, to be able to name it is to tame it. 

We find many people also find the description of finding a "heart with ears" helpful. A “heart with ears” (Grief Recovery Institute) is someone who can listen without judgment, analysis, critique, and comparison. In short, it’s a person who can hold a safe space to allow another to voice their heart. The griever is allowed to have their experience - which is unique to them - as their own, embraced as valid and true, even if their brains think otherwise.

Take one step at a time.

You don't have to take on the whole staircase at once. You don’t have to produce the whole film at once.  

Some common symptoms of grief are brain fog, exhaustion, and forgetfulness. Creative blocks can also occur. Things can feel so overwhelming and the more we focus on it, the more overwhelming it can tend to feel. The more we focus on writer’s block, the harder it can be to move through it. We recommend utilizing the Emotional Inventory to help work through creative blocks. 

As Maya Angelou says, “Every journey begins with a single step.” Take one small step each moment of each day. Only think of the next step until you are ready to take the next and then the next. 

"I never lived in a world where he didn't exist." 

Oof. This one really hit home for us as well. The person who shared this sentiment about their father was spot on about one reason grief can be so difficult. There is no single handbook for grief, no one-size-fits-all approach. It is uncharted waters for all of us. It’s so important to keep that at the forefront of our minds to help cultivate empathy toward ourselves and others. 

We truly hope that our workshop discussion is the stepping stone for all participants to dive deeper into their grief and feelings. We hope that it also serves to strengthen their empathy muscles so that they can practice deeper compassion for self and others. Every single human experiences grief. Period. Each of us can do our small part to support others and not add to their grief. 

Thank you, Tony, for this opportunity to connect with your community. We wish you all the best in your creative journeys and look forward to our next collaboration.