In my last posting, I talked about how grief over losing my mother inspired me to start creating mosaic and textile art (quilts). I jokingly called my mosaics, “grief-saics” since I made many pieces while she was dying. Since that post, I have been thinking about the role of grief and loss in the creative process and in life in general.
As a licensed therapist who works with emotionally disturbed youth and their families, I am faced every day with the consequences of loss and grief that have not been expressed and worked through. The children I counsel often experience abuse and neglect that leave wounds that are buried deep and are difficult to heal. The grief spills out in agitated, aggressive behavior or in self-destructive acts. To a greater or lesser degree, we all struggle with how to handle the losses and hurts of life that pile up inside if we don’t give them an outlet for expression. I notice that the most impaired clients are the ones who have avoided feeling and expressing their grief and have grown rigid and unable to access their full creative and alive selves.
Like most people, I have historically tried to avoid feelings of sadness and loss because they are uncomfortable. With several years of life and therapy under my belt, I am getting better at allowing those feelings to surface, be expressed and ultimately be released. I am learning that the sadness can fuel my creativity in ways that make it into something of beauty and integrity. As an example, I recently spent a very sad day visiting my elderly father in Sonoma County. He has made a wise but painful decision to sell his rural property on the outskirts of Guerneville where he has resided for over 45 years and where he raised his three daughters (including me). My inclination was to let my sisters help him move since they live in the area, to avoid the whole sad scene. Instead, I faced my feelings and spent the day taking pictures of the house and property and crying when I needed to. My husband and daughters came to support me and say their own goodbyes (which was a good opportunity to model healthy grieving for my girls). When I arrived home, I took out my mosaic supplies and made a piece that reflected how I was feeling. I chose glass tiles in blues and greens that reminded me of the trees, sky and water that were so embedded in my childhood experience in Guerneville. I also chose to include black tile that I placed randomly throughout to remind me of the hurts and losses that were also part of my upbringing. The contrast between the blues, greens and black gave perfect expression to the reality of my childhood.
Not everyone will choose artistic expression to voice their grief but sharing it, feeling it and if possible, giving it a physical form through dance/movement, art or writing can bring you closer to being the flexible, alive and vibrant person that you were meant to be.