Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October Grief Project - Creative Expression: Healing Through the Arts

 "Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable." 
~George Bernard Shaw

Oscar Wilde once said, "It is through art and through art only that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence." I would go one step further and say that not only does art protect us from the jeopardies of the world, it teaches us, strengthens us, and allows us to participate in all the wonderful and excruciating emotions of our actual existence. We have seen this throughout civilization; artwork of all kinds, paintings, sculptures, poems, plays, etc., through the generations, depicting our deepest depths of grief.

 (The Angel of Grief is an 1894 sculpture and gravestone by William Wetmore Story for him and his wife.) 

(The Sick Child by Edvard Munch as a depiction of the moments before his sisters death at age 15 to tuberculous.)

Why art for grief one might ask?  To some it seems natural and the answer would be 'why not' to others it may seem out of their comfort zone.  But there is something transcendent about art, something in the process of making it, looking at it, dreaming it into life, that is truly powerful.  Art helps us access the experiences that lie beneath grief, it touches and grabs hold of the unspoken emotions that word's often can't find.  If you participate in an art activity to process your grief, you might find that through the paint brush, the pen, or the photo lens, you will come across a sense of healing that your tongue just can't express.

In in the field of psychotherapy, art therapy is a valid and relied upon method of exploring ones grief. "Creative expression often bypasses intellect to allow a greater range of emotions than talk therapy alone can evoke." states Sandra L. Bertma, in her review of The Art of Grief: The Use of Expressive Arts in Grief Support Groups.  Recent neuroscience supports this claim as cognitive neuroscience has shown that while trauma is still fresh, the language center of the brain becomes suppressed, inhibiting our ability to recall memories. Nancy Gershman, in her article in Techniques of Grief Therapy states that "the preferred mood of communication for the emotional brain is the language of sensory images, metaphors, and symbols."  This is where art comes in as a form of accessing the emotional brain for healing through it's language of images instead of spoken words. 

For the month of October, while you haven't been looking (well, I haven't been posting), I have been focusing on using creative expression through the arts to explore and integrate my grief.  So far, this month I have participated in photography to capture my feelings of grief, I tried different painting and collage techniques to explore my emotions through different senses, as well as writing exercises and listening to music to move towards finding a sense of calm within my internal storm of sorrow.

I hope you follow along as in the last few days of October I will be sharing my projects and my experience with each one here on Stillborn and Still Breathing.  I look forward to your comments and sharing of your own experiences with using art to address your grief as I know so many in the community do.  When you see my artwork, remember, I am an amateur at creative expression, but I hope it's process, not necessarily the finished product will help soothe my soul. And if you partake in a creative release, I hope you too can find the gift in the journey of the creation and not judge the outcome as we as humans often like to do.  


Reconceiving Loss provides a place to use creativity to explore grief after pregnancy loss through writing, photography, and yoga exercises.   

Illuminate is a beautiful FREE photography course offered by Beryl Young, fellow loss mom.  She started this course after finding photography as an important step in her healing journey and then wanted to share her knowledge with others.

Art4Healing is a organization that offers web courses for those interested in using art to heal their emotional pain.  I did not find courses centered around grief and loss, but there are some wonderful course that would still address the topic.

Made is a course offered by Beth Morey, fellow loss mom.  Her course would fit those who are of Christian faith looking to explore their new self after loss through creativity.  The course's main focus is on exploring God-centered creativity, but there are many healing components.    

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