Creating Brave eCourses: Survivorship

Mindful Survivorship Mandalas

Mindful Mandalas Honoring Survivorship


to endure
to live through
to live beyond
in spite of a danger, adversity or hardship

Frankly, haven’t we all dealt with survivorship in some form or another? Although the word is usually associated with cancer survivorship issues, the residue from a life altering event can cling to us, becoming chronic if not addressed. Underlying issues can lie dormant. Unexpressed fears or anxieties can quietly erode our capacity to feel joy. Stress can undermine our well-being. We can become masters at hiding what we are truly feeling.

For over 20 years, I have witnessed how art-making has been a pathway into moving beyond suffering and embracing survivorship. Hundreds and hundreds of cancer survivors, their families and friends and caregivers have experienced this resiliency of the human spirit. Last year, I realized the issues of cancer survivorship are universal and we needed to expand our mission.

My Eureka Moment: Cultivating Creativity for All

In 2015, Healing Icons celebrated 20 of service to the cancer community, mostly right here in South Carolina. The year was filled with teaching our popular Seasonal Saturday Retreats and our monthly series of Lunch & Learns hosted by Lexington Medical Center in Columbia, SC. In late October, we celebrated our 20th birthday with an art-as-healing Communities of Hope Exhibition and by sponsoring a group of Tibetan monks to create a sand mandala of community healing. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds attended daily to watch the monks create, to view our exhibition and to contribute to our Tibetan-inspired community art activities. We had more publicity than we had ever had, and people from all walks of life had a direct personal experience of Art As Healing.



Survivors of Many Things

Visitors to our exhibition told me about the conflicts in their lives. They were survivors, and they wanted to participate in our offering, but most were not cancer survivors. But they were survivors of  many things!

Cancer. Loss of a Job. Heart Disease. Divorce. Death of a Loved One. Care-giving. Diabetes. Introverts Living in an Extroverted World. Perfectionism.  

Sand mandala offers community healing. - art as key to survivorship

Hearts open . Stories shared. Healing begins.

There was an unspoken, palpable hunger for healing.

Life-changing, life-disruptive events have the potential to add layers of stress, anxiety and worry into our lives. Instead of pushing through and ignoring the natural side effects that come with change, creativity practices can help usher us through these difficult times with grace and calm.

I realized that stress is stress. When it comes to addressing it, the source doesn’t really matter. What does matter is learning a creative practice that helps us acknowledge it and then let it go. I developed “Mindful Mandalas” as one of those practices. These methods are suitable for all chronic diseases and life-disrupting events, as well as for those who might just need a bit of time all to themselves.

What is Creating Brave®?

The Emotional Havoc of Cancer. Created by a survivor

Courage – from the Latin word Cor – heart. Original meaning – to speak from one’s heart. Emotional Havoc – created by a survivor

Healing Icons has a solid mission with a global vision: to teach art-making as a form of stress reduction and healing. By providing relief and reducing suffering, we make positive change in cancer survivors’ lives!

Now through the cyber-world, Creating Brave’s eCourses are designed from my 20 years of teaching art as healing and are now open to everyone. How cool is that?

Creating – To bring something into existence, to make, to produce new, original things

Brave – Having the courage to face or deal with something uncomfortable

Whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, dealing with medical protocol issues, caregiver issues or survivorship issues…

Whether it’s a chronic illness – cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, arthritis…

Whether it’s a depression or a grief or any kind of life-disrupting event…

Whether it’s reshaping or fine-tuning our lives…

Any one of these can leave us feeling

Overwhelmed. Shocked. Sad. Angry. Hopeless. Stressed. Terrified. Alone. Betrayed. Depressed.  Confused.

Drowning in emotions and feelings that are hard to express is a very common side effect of any sort of trauma. When life’s unexpected twists and turns confront us, the existential questions of life swirl around in our minds and usually wind up as a tangled jumble of confusing thoughts. Why am I here? What is my true purpose? What really matters? What happens when we die? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why isn’t life fair? How do I live my life now? How do I make sense of what has happened?

Sometimes Words Are Not Enough

Hand Mandala - We are all in this together.

Hand Mandala – We are all in this together.


When things are not quite speech-ready, we need another language. A silent, powerful, soul-filled language of color and texture and pattern and form and line and shape. A visual language.

We need a creative practice that can help form our thoughts and usher us forward into survivorship.



That’s what Creating Brave® is all about!

Consider commenting and sharing some thoughts with us.

What are you a survivor of?


  1. Donna McGreevy on September 10, 2016 at 4:05 am

    I am a survivor of cancer,single parenthood, heart disease and the loss of a sibling. Healing Icons has made such a positive difference in my life. I am so happy for others to have the opportunity to share in this amazing program. Get ready to connect with your inner self and to find the strength to deal with the difficult moments of life!

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on September 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      Donna, you are a survivor strong with what is means to live through the tough times. It has been my honor to witness your resiliency and be a small part of journey. You have been a voice of encouragement and support for many. Thank you for sharing your courage with others.

  2. Erin Mahar on September 12, 2016 at 1:08 am

    I want to do these ecourses so badly. Please tell me how. I’m becoming stronger every day from leaving a 6 year emotionally relationship. I’m trying to cope not only with my feelings of worthlessness, but also being alone. (The man that destroyed me has moved on with several other women,) I’m terrified of trusting and I’m terrified of being alone and I don’t know where to go from here. On top of all this, I have the financial worry that I do not make enough money and I am sinking fast. I’m at the darkest place I’ve ever been in my life and I desperately need help. Please show me a way out and back into this life.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on September 14, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Erin, hold on to that powerful statement you voiced – “I am becoming stronger everyday.” Write is down where you can see it everyday. Say it out loud everyday. That is one of the mantras I use when I am off balance. For me, creating a visual prompt helps me remember just that.

      I am sorry that our eCourse will not be available until January but I hope these two blog posts will also offer you some creative practices to guide you through this hard time.

      Wander around the blog and you just might find some more inspiration.
      All of us at Healing Icons are sending you support and energy and peace.

  3. Helen McDonald on September 13, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Heidi, I miss Healing Icons so much. Maintaining strong bonds with the people I have met through Healing Icons is one of the most powerful instruments of recovering. I am excited about the e-classes. What a great way to begin the new year.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on September 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Helen, I miss you as well and am so grateful that Healing Icons played a part in your recovery. Thank you for being one of our ambassadors and volunteering your time to be one of the featured students in our eCourse Mindful Mandalas. Look forward to sharing it with you!

  4. Michelle Baker on September 26, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    What a resource and it’s so obvious that this is a labor of love.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on September 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      Yes Michelle, we are thrilled about sharing our offerings to a larger group of people. Using creativity to foster positive change in people’s lives is such an incredible experience. Art Works!

  5. Dee Appleby on September 26, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    “The most profound words will remain unread unless you can keep the learner engaged. You can’t see their eyes to know if they got it so … say it, show it, write it, demo it and link it to an activity”. James Bates

    I’ve always loved this quote and am thrilled to find Creating Brave. This is what you guys are doing! Thank you for your offerings.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on September 26, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Thanks for the elegant quote from James Bates! I hope you’ll continue to keep up with what we are doing.

  6. Cindy Saad on September 27, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Heidi, I am so excited that this course is open to survivors of any illness and will definitely share it with friends.. Going back twenty years when I first took your Healing Icon’s classes, I visioned your classes helping a larger population and so glad to see it expand! Congratulations!

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on September 27, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you Cindy. Your support has helped make this happen and I am so grateful for your dedication to Healing Icon’s mission. Couldn’t have done this without you.

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