Creative Writing as Therapy
Flowers of Hope
Written with clients attending CareWell Adult Day Support Program. Four of the participants had some form of dementia but all benefitted from the experience. One family member stated that his mother always seemed more animated and alert on Thursday afternoons- right after her group writing session. This book covered two lives from their respective childhoods in Ireland and Scotland, through the Second World War, their marriage and move to the Ramsay area of Calgary up to the death of a spouse and the heartwarming ending. This was a weekly reminiscence of childhood, songs of each era, hopes, dreams, fears, and a weaving together of the lives of each of the participants. Every page is part of one or more of the participants' real lives, with a little fiction intertwined. Creative non-fiction is the style of choice for the therapist and seems to work well! We sold 100 copies of this book and gave a portion of the profits to Alzheimer's Research and Breast Cancer Research.
Harrison's Home This book was written by a group of residents at a care centre in Calgary. All were seniors and all had some degree of cognitive decline. The setting is Inglewood, Calgary, Alberta and it follows a family through WWI, the Depression, WWII and beyond. We discussed trials and troubles, joys and accomplishments, fears and hopes as well as funny day to day occurrences in the lives of the characters- which were actually straight from the lives of the participants. This book went into a second printing and copies went as far away as Jamaica. The Glenbow Museum in Calgary also has a copy. Participants went on bus outings with the therapist to look at houses, and gardens, and to the library to research Inglewood at the time of the book's setting, in order to become more involved in the creative process. They decided on the vintage era flowers, such as hollyhocks and delphiniums that the Harrisons might have in their garden, to the historically accurate places where people worked (or didn't) during the Depression. Participants were featured in the Neighbours weekly publication ( part of the Calgary Herald at the time) and in the Alberta Report Magazine.
In this writing group, all but one of the participants were in stroke recovery and one was a caregiver of a spouse in stroke recovery. The writers met weekly with the Therapist and discussed the experience of having a stroke, the changes to family dynamics, self image, and other emotional concerns, as well as the recovery process in terms of learning to speak and walk again. Weekly group sessions were never dull and as time passed, participants shared more close bonds were formed. The story setting is Calgary, Alberta and centers on Bowness, in the northwest quadrant of the city. Their story is, once again, a blend of their own lives and the ending is heartfelt and truthful.