Saturday, November 22, 2008


Grieving Through Art

by Lisa A. Riley

There might come a time when the safe cushion of our routine lives is suddenly jolted by a loss. It could be an unexpected loss of a job, an ending to a relationship, a death of a loved one or a dream we watched slip out of our reach. In either situation, grief can result and often consume our lives during such times. This can disrupt the flow of our routine especially in our artistic life. Startled and paralyzed, we are unable to tap into what was once a river of creativity. Although, grief is a natural remedy to move us towards healing and recovery, it can often put a suddenly halt to our creative process.

Grief may require us to shut down both physically and mentally in order to cope. The very same energy that once cultivated inspiration is now forced to focus on recuperating. This can often leave us feeling creatively dried up and dull. Yet, in the midst of suffering also lies an opportunity to heal from it and what better avenue then to try to express it through our art.

During grief, our creativity pulls from a different source, our own emotional suffering. Sometimes emotional pain and trials can force us to become more introspective, present and sensitive to our internal world, allowing feelings to be closer to the surface making it much easier to tap into. We can clearly see this occurring in the pieces of some of our old masters.

For example, Picasso’s well-known “Blue Period,” was prompted by the sudden suicide death of his friend Carlos Casadgemas. His grief can be felt through the blues and greens that dominated his paintings during this period. Picasso also painted multiple portraits of Casadgemas as an avenue to express the deep loss and yearning for his friend. Another example is a writer telling the story of his own trauma over and over again as a reoccurring theme in his writings. For instance, Shakespeare’s repeated theme of death that shows up in his plays can be attributed to witnessing multiple fatalities in his family. Because of the high mortality rate during his time, many of his brothers and sisters died at an early age.

The intense feelings of loss and grief can be overwhelming. Being able to process some of these feelings through our art can help lesson the intensity as well as bring some relief. Creatively expressing our grief can help us work through the pain and bring more meaning and depth to our experience.

Just as Picasso began his Rose Period soon after his Blue Period, we too can have hope that there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

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