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Art for Healing Grief (Just Not on a Workday)

sawyer chasing demons velvet grief painting

One of my bright ideas turned into one of the dumbest things I ever tried to do. The bright idea was to start my next art therapy project one morning before work. The topic was “spirit,” which I thought was innocuous enough, no?

Since Mom is cleaning out her basement and had sent me a box of greeting cards she’s saved since I was born, I thought the cards would make a fantastic collage to show the “spirit” of love, the “spirit” of family and friends, and the “spirit” of the many dearly departed whose signatures punctuated the well wishes.

Twenty minutes into the project, I was a weeping mess.

It only got worse from there.

Dang Sneaky Grief

Let’s just say the topic of “spirit” quickly turned into a study in grief. I was grieving my grandparents, great-grandparents, and people I didn’t even remember who signed some of the cards because I was sure they must be dead by now. I was grieving my dad. The departed family cat. The lost innocence of every baby that eventually grows up and becomes yet another cynical adult.

That project is currently on hold, as I still had a lineup of work assignments to complete for the week. But I did learn a valuable lesson: art is great for healing grief – just not on a workday.

Thinking back, every grief-related art project had been painful while it was in the works. Several that immediately come to mind include:

  • A velvet painting of dog Sawyer chasing demons, created a year after he died
  • A velvet painting of dog Dini as an angel bumblebee, created several months after she died
  • A happy heaven spider created from my dad’s hip and knee replacement parts, created several months after he died
  • An ugly green and black painting thing with the word “grief” created while Sawyer was dying

Aside from the painting that actually reads “grief,” the other projects weren’t created with the intention of healing grief. It just kind of worked out that way.

They were immensely painful as they were being created. But once I allowed the pain to fully and wholly flood the entire essence of my being as I was actively creating, it somehow lessened.

Art has a groovy way of providing relief from depression, anxiety, fears, anger – and yes, even grief. Even when I’m creating memorial art for others, I can somehow feel the load of woes lightening.

But Doesn’t It Hurt to Look at the Grief Art?

Once the flood of grief has saturated your soul and the tide eventually subsides, you can even bear to look at the art you’ve created during that dark moment. Heck, you can even come to enjoy it.

  • Sawyer chasing demons is now the central piece in the living room, complete with its own personal light, making me happy that Sawyer found something to do in heaven
  • Dini on velvet buzzes happily beneath Sawyer, as she always was the second fiddle
  • Dad’s happy heavenly spider sits pertly near my nightstand, reminding me Dad’s spirit is with me from the moment I wake up to the moment I head to bed
  • The ugly green and black grief painting thing? That’s in the garage somewhere. I think. It was painful to look at. Not because it brought back the memories of grieving, but just because it’s so dang ugly.

I’m sure my finished “spirit” collage will likewise find its place when complete. Its next installment will just have to wait for a day where I don’t have six assignments lined up to compete with my wailing and tears.

dog dini on velvet memorial pet painting
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