This post is about how hearts can help to heal people experiencing trauma - it mentions rape, suicidality and mental illness. Please take care if these issues are triggering for you.
Making and sharing hearts is fun and creative and crafty...it can also be a pathway to deep healing.
1000 Hearts is so much more than a craft project. It's about kindness and is designed to offer some goodness in this world. One of the most powerful reasons for me to keep it going is seeing the difference it makes for people who are suffering.
I have a background in psychology and counselling and have spent my entire career working with people who are struggling with life's big challenges, including suicidality, social isolation and loneliness, anxiety and depression, self-harm, illness, bereavement, death and dying. This work is an absolute privilege and has inspired me to offer something that creates connection and symbolises love - two magical ingredients for healing. This is why I created 1000 Hearts and it's why I keep putting my time and energy into this project I believe in so much.
The stories I hear about how hearts can facilitate healing are incredibly powerful, and bring a deep sense of meaning and purpose to me in my role as the founder and leader of 1000 Hearts. I've also had my own struggles with childhood trauma, anxiety and divorce and I know how much it means to have someone reach out when you're in a dark place.
I've had a support worker email me to say that "your hearts prevented two suicides in my community" and several people have told me that making and sharing hearts saved their lives while they were struggling with overwhelming depression. Hearts have helped people through deep trauma, loss, bereavement and despair. It's incredible how much a small act of kindness can mean - like a tiny light shining in the darkness.
In the earlier days of the project, I sent hearts to people impacted by the shooting at a nightclub in Orlando - the hearts, adorned with little rainbows, still form part of the memorial for the people who lost their lives. Hearts were also sent to people impacted by the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester and I heard that a young girl injured in the blast was able to find the courage to leave her house after being too traumatised to do so. A gesture of kindness from a stranger halfway around the world was enough to restore at least a little of her faith in humanity.
I've been inspired to write about hearts-as-healing by a recent email I received from Natasha, who shared her story with me. Three years ago, Natasha was gang raped by three men (the police investigation is ongoing). Natasha wrote to tell me she had found the 1000 Hearts project and connected with the idea. She initially made a few pocket hearts for friends and family before finding a "higher calling in my own heart" to make hearts to donate to a local hospital to give to rape victims as a symbol of hope. Natasha has also written a letter to accompany the hearts, about things she wished she had known about rape when it happened to her.
Natasha writes "The biggest hurt about rape for me is that nobody talks about it. It is incredibly lonely and these hearts will offer victims hope. When I sew hearts, my heart is calm and my anxiety shifts for a time."
For those experiencing trauma and struggling with mental illness, sitting quietly with a mindful activity can be therapeutic. Making a heart as a reminder to be kind to ourselves is powerful and offering a heart to someone else can be empowering when we may feel we have nothing left to give.
These little things we spend our time making and sharing are not just cute, colourful little pocket hearts...they are magical bringers of hope, healing and love. When you make and share hearts, you are offering a symbol of your love, care and willingness to connect. I believe these are the things which will change our world, initially on an individual level and eventually on a global scale.
Keep flying the flag for kindness - don't be overcome with despair. Each loving stitch, each tiny offering - you never know what it might mean for someone who really needs it. The thread holding those two heart-shaped pieces of felt together may just become the thread of hope that someone badly needs to keep going. Any time we offer kindness, it makes a far bigger difference than we may even truly understand - we just have to keep the faith.
A follow-up to last year's posts about self-compassion, and a reminder to heartists that kindness starts with our own imperfect selves.Read more
How to safely make and share hearts during the COVID-19 pandemicRead more