Category Archives: About counselling

Digital bereavement – lost memory

black and white photo of a man sitting on a bench holding his baby daughter

Imagine you never saw a photo of your late loved one again? How would that feel? I don’t have a lot of photos of my Dad because he was usually behind the camera. But I have some (like the one with me as a baby above), and because many were taken in a pre-digital age I have them on paper and I’ve taken digital copies. That’s because they are precious to me, and are part of my memory of my late Dad.

lost memory banks

A recent media report highlighted that for some people this memory bank of our late loved ones, and our history with them, may be lost. It was reported that a man had stored all his photos online, as many of us do. Photos he had taken of his wife and child. When he died his family were unable to gain access to the photos. It was easier to gain probate for physical property and shares than it was that memory bank of photos.

memories of love

Photos like the one above form part of our own history. I have no memory of the day this photo was taken, with me on my Dad’s lap on a bench. What this photo does is remind me of the love and care I received from my Dad, that he supported me from my earliest years, even before I was old enough to understand all that he did. I could know this without this photo, but it is a strong emotional reminder of that love and care. Photos are a reminder of things we did together, our shared history. That family lost this link to their shared history with their lost loved one when they were denied access to his photos in the cloud.

losing part of yourself

I do know exactly where this photo was taken and that there is still a bench there. However I’d never be able to replace it. I am an adult, not the baby in this photo, and both my Dad and my Mum who took it are dead. Without the photos I lose a part of myself, of the family and environment that contributed to who I am today

many sorts of loss

When someone dies we recognise that loss. There are social conventions around loss in most communities. Yet losing, or being denied access to, photographs is another form of loss, that may compound the loss. The impact of that loss may not be recognised by others.

helping the living

Recognising the impact of losing a memory bank of photos may have on bereaved people, even a long time after their loved one has died, is something we can do for the living. We can also find out how to put our own digital world in order to minimise the loss to those who love us. This link gives information about how to contact the main social media and online content providers after someone has died.

Julie Millar is a counsellor in Chester.

She grew up at the seaside and loves sunshine and tea. She listens with her heart as well as her ears. She works with people who have lost something precious to them; a person, an animal, a dream… And people who have experienced abuse. People who are hurting or confused and want something to change.

Julie’s superpower is curiosity.

Follow Julie on Facebook and Instagram where she posts on a variety of topics.

Being creative in counselling

image of a decorated mask, painted stones a paint brush and scisssors, illustrating ways of expressing being creative
Painted mask and stones

How many of us hold onto the idea that we are not creative? Perhaps we think that allowing ourselves just to be with paint or craft materials is only for children? And that if we make something it has to reach a certain standard to be deemed valid and a good use of our time?

art at school

I certainly got the message at school that I was no good at art, and so I soon started disengaging. My ‘art’ reflected this. I painted an iris in front of a brick wall, my entry to paradise was the gates to a junkyard. So I secretly read the NME under the desk in art class instead. I have to say I liked my art teacher, I just didn’t meet the school art standards and there was nothing else to offer kids like me.

creativity doesn’t need to be art

Now if I had been told that doing embroidery was creative, or making macrame plantpot holders was creative, I might have absorbed a different message about myself. Creativity takes many forms. It can be art, or writing poetry or novels; it can be crafts, making clothes, cooking. I found creativity in accountancy, not in cooking the books (!!), but in the sense of making something coherent out of apparent chaos. Being creative is part of being human.

creative adults?

When we think about being creative with things such as paint, felt, stones, embroidery it seems we can go three ways: things that have a value that qualify as art, that appear in galleries; things that are exemplars of a craft that are admired as such; and things made by children. It feels that if you are not an artist, a craftsperson or a child creativity is something adults don’t to. It’s not proper adulting. Well actually it is. Why should we stop expressing ourselves just because we have grown up bodies?

the quality standard

We live in a world where we are constantly invited to compare ourselves and what we are and do to others. Too often we find ourselves wanting. This can come up in allowing ourseslves to be creative. We can look at what other’s do and find our creations lacking. That may reflect an underlying sense of inferiority, or a sense of not being worthy. You don’t have to share what you do with anyone else unless you want to. And what others do is their expression of themselves, you are expressing you.

making things tells us about ourselves

When we let ourselves engage in something that touches that creative part of us we may also find things about ourselves that we had forgotten or didn’t know. When I decorated the mask you see at the top of this post, I used what materials that were immediately at hand. Reflecting on that I see myself as someone who tries to make the most of what I have. My decoration is very minimal, and I painted the lips a colour you might not expect. This led to the feeling that someone else may not like the mask, and more deeply may not like me. On the inside I wrote “do you like me?”. And that brought me in touch with a part of me that said “too bad if you don’t!”. Having a balanced view of ourselves can help our mental health.

An example of being creative. Image of the inside of a painted mask with written words including " do you like me?" and " too bad if you  don't"
mask interior

a sense of personal achievement

Making things can bring a sense of achievement. I recently made a simple skirt and pair of trousers and felt the satisfaction of making something I could wear what reflected something about me. Making something that is useful or beautiful to you, or doing something you simply enjoy doing, can bring a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction. Those are reasons enough to do them.

creativity in counselling

Counselling is seen as a talking therapy, however it isn’t only that. Creativity in the counselling room can help people understand themselves better, celebrate the varied qualities they have, and get back in touch with the child’s joy of being absorbed in making something.

The mask and stones were decorated by me at a Creative Counsellors’ skill share event.

Hi, I’m Julie, and I’m a counsellor based in Chester.

I am in my fifties, grew up at the seaside and love sunshine and tea. My superpower is curiosity. I am quiet and open, and listen with my heart as well as my ears. I particularly work with people who have lost something precious to them; a person, an animal, a dream… Or who have experienced abuse and now question their own selves or their value. People who are hurting or confused and want something to change.

I trained as a counsellor at the University of Chester. I used to be an accountant although I realised I like people much more than numbers. I’ve been a hospital chaplain, and it was this that led me into counselling. My passion is to be alongside people as they navigate through the varied sea states of life, from flat calm to raging storm.

Please do follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I post about a variety of topics to interest you.