Creating from Loss

The world has turned grey, nothing in it sparkles any more, dawns are dull, sunsets ashen, all sounds are muffled, my enthusiasm is sucked dry and my energy spent. I shut myself away to privately keen and howl and weep. I ask myself what is the point – of anything? Of love, of life, of caring? I cannot help myself. Friends call and their commiserations pierce me and tears come again and again.

Long ago a mentor counseled me not to stop myself from crying – Tears cleanse, he said, they do not drown!

Days later I wearily feel that I have to do something and, out of habit, I escape into books. In one of them, I read something that penetrates my lonely cocoon. A psychotherapist had written
“….I ask them if they can make their suffering sacred. Can they perhaps create something from their suffering.” (Michael Gellert: The Way of the Small)

I am a painter and so I sit at my worktable and listlessly try to draw…..No inspiration! I just want to see my dear ones once again.

Then I recall other times in which art had served this difficult state of grieving. Feeling bereft when my oldest child left home, I noticed the demolition of an old apartment building. The strands of wiring and fractured plumbing protruding from betwphoto-37een the floors seemed to mirror my internal state. It had been someone’s home once and now a wall was missing. Yet, even so, the curtains hanging from the remaining window frames gave an impression that someone was still home. The mixed media piece inspired by it hangs on my wall.

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I remember when trying to reconnect with my mother, I created a montage of photos and her letters and printed them on an apron. As I stitched and painted, I reflected on the woman who had been so pivotal in my life.

My sister builds an altar for her every Halloween – the anniversary of her death – and knowing about the altar comforts me. For my dead father I wrote about a special visit to a place that had imprinted his whole life – and through him – my own.

I am reminded once more, that I am not mourning just one this one death, but all the others through which I had grimly marched on, gritting my teeth, sidelining my feelings, carried along by the drum-beat of work deadlines and other responsibilities. Now my neglected grieving — for my mentor, parents, two friends struggling with serious illnesses, a friendship damaged beyond repair, my dear old hound — inundates me.

I assemble photos of a life I had shared, and through them contemplate the gradual minute-by-minute passage through the years and remember particular times. Gradually the feeling of great love shared comes glimmering through the grey. The photos, printed on fabric, become prayer flags inscribed with wishes from my friends. A dear friend keeps me company and we sew them onto a line and hang the prayer flags in the garden. They move with the wind, sometimes animated and sometimes becalmed. Comforting me, reminding me.

One of the inevitable occurrences of life is experiencing loss. I talked to a woman recently and she shared that she and her husband started a journal to help them with a recent loss. Every day they each wrote a memory down.

How have you dealt with loss?

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