The Art of Grieving

How we introduce certain topics can be delicate. On one hand we want to give people some insight into what we will be talking about, on the other hand, we don’t want to scare away readers who may feel uncomfortable with these same issues. Hence, online reading and writing can be a real benefit when talking about difficult subjects.

Death and dying is definitely among those subjects.

I have a lot of experience with grief at this point in my life; at the age of 63, I have had more than my fair share of losses. Also, my first gig as an art therapist, was at a hospice. That was my introduction as a professional, to the subtleties of guiding individuals through such a natural process; one that hurts so much. As in so many other aspects of life, the balance of what we know through study and understanding, must be weighed with the ‘felt sense’ of the thing. The interaction of these disparate aspects of knowledge and wisdom, is the space where we can explore how to keep living with, what feels like, a broken heart.

I recently lost my mother. She was 95, and the quality of her life had deteriorated over the last few years, such that she was unrecognizable as the woman she had been throughout her life. This saddens me, but it makes it so completely understandable that we would also feel relief (or as my brother expressed it- release). This is the result of the physical sensation of the lightening that occurs when someone who needs full- time care passes. It in no way erases the love and compassion with which we carried out the caregiving. Rather, it is the noticing of the toll caregiving has taken on us, even when given freely with love.

It is part of the grieving process.

I have long since understood that the pain of grief diminishes over time, and that each occurrence of grief is a reminder of all that came before. It is my belief, too, that we grow as we pass through the stages of grief. I know that these are not linear, and what may pass for acceptance initially, may be thrown to the curb in the following weeks, etc. While not making anything feel any better in the moment, there is a definite knowing that we can be certain of, as we continue to become accustomed to loss over time. We come to know that loss is part of living and loving. We learn too, that although it seems impossible today, we will survive the pain of grief, and it will add to our reservoir of compassion and our ability to grow through difficult times.

The art I have made over the past week, is very much about the expression of these feelings. With all that I know, it should come as no surprise that I have been scattered, and that my feelings seem like they are attached to a yo- yo; up and down, and up and down. Well- I have been surprised. I did not anticipate the depth of feeling that I am experiencing and I am infinitely grateful that I have the tools to express that. I made the assumption that the wealth of knowledge and understanding, along with my life experiences, would inoculate me from feeling so deeply.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

And so, I will continue to feel my way through, as is the way that nature intended. And, I will continue to make art of my memories, grief and trauma- transforming all that I feel into colour and form.


Stay well all.

1 comment

Benjamin Toane

I call that grieving at the loss of a close family member or friend a feeling of sweet melancholy. I remember all of the times that we spent together and there is a sweetness to that memory. But in the background is melancholy or sadness. The two are inextricably intertwined and my tears are both sweet and painful all at the same time.

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