New Traditions: Origami Calms the Mind & Leaves Memorial Keepsakes


Picture by Jeffrey Friedl

The ways in which we choose to remember those we’ve lost are as individual as we are. Some may paint; others draw, or write, dance, or sing. In this article, I intend to discuss the use of origami as a tool that I found very useful in dealing with grief.

At first glance, you might wonder why origami would even be remotely useful in dealing with grief. I probably would too, if I hadn’t seen for myself how it can help focus the mind and provide an outlet for painful emotions during the grief process.

I’m a writer and a musician, really, so origami isn’t my only outlet. It was by sheer chance I discovered the ancient art in February 2010. I’d injured my thumb, and couldn’t play guitar for a week. I found some patterns online and attempted some basic origami.

I soon found myself able to make a jumping frog and a jumping rabbit. Alright, the frog’s ‘legs’ become the rabbit’s easy so it’s basically the same model, but I am still proud of the accomplishment.

After my triumph with the frogs and rabbits, I wanted to broaden my horizons so I decided to go for the ‘classic’ origami model- the paper crane. It took me a long time to master them, but as I worked, I found that with each careful fold, the quiet state that I entered creating the model was beneficial for my healing process.

Try It: This is a particularly good tutorial.

An ancient Japanese legend states that anyone who makes a thousand paper cranes is granted one wish.

With this in mind I set out to make a thousand paper cranes for the citizens of Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. As people who are grieving, our one wish is probably not realistically possible, but peace of mind is. There’s a certain amount of mastery over the mind, which can be gained through origami.

It could be said that is all we are seeking in the early stages of grief. We want to understand and be able to control our emotions through some means. Two grief experiences can never be the same, because no two relationships are ever the same. If we cared about all of our friends and loved ones in the same way, the world would be a very, very boring place.

I ensure that I only ever have one person in mind when I am making a crane, because it is a deeply personal and individual pursuit. Then I am delighted with the reward of a unique memorial object.

The pain of grief may at first seem insurmountable, but there are many ways to deal with it in the many forms that it takes. Writing is a good way if there’s something you need to get out, but if you’re feeling fidgety, then origami provides an outlet which shouldn’t be sniffed at, because you’ll have a memento of what you did for yourself during the time when you were learning to adjust to the absence of one whom you loved, and still love.

There’s one thing for sure, our love for them transcends even their physical absence, and in another way, they’re always with us. I wish you peace at this time of year, and all the best in your origami adventures.

Casey started a website called Navigating Cyberloss in November 2010. It is a great resource to learn about her experience losing an online friend, share your thoughts, and seek support. Read Casey’s work on t2a here>.


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