Wednesday 24 December 2014

Bereavement and Creativity (1) | Painting, Writing and Other Creative Endeavours

When someone close to us dies our everyday world is disrupted and we need to find ways not only to cope with our loss and the associated grief that we feel but also with not having that person in our lives on a day-to-day basis any more. It is increasingly acknowledged by grief counsellors, therapists and scholars concerned with death and bereavement that there is a place for creativity – including the production and presentations of music, visual arts, stories and poems, drama and so on - within bereavement. Such activity is thought to be one result of and to assist individuals through the grieving process. The production of online memorials is a fairly recent way of collecting together and displaying such materials although grief related creations have been produced and documented throughout history. Some examples of the artefacts, images and other outputs produced and the value of such production are considered by the authors in a special edition of the journal Illness, Crisis and Loss that my friend Deborah Davidson (from York University, Ontario) and I are currently editing (due to be published in 2015).The fruits of such activity can be useful not only for the person who produces the piece(s) but also for others. We know, for example, that music and fiction enables listeners and readers to experience emotions — their own and those of others — and understand them in relation to the contexts in which the emotions arise. Similar can be said about art and drama. For many grief is a long process and the making of ‘things’ in memory of those who have died and/or as a way of expressing emotions along the way is helpful for some.
Memorial . . . by numbers

During my own grief journeys I have experimented with different types of creativity. I still have the picture I painted following my miscarriage in the mid-1980s. Not much skill or even originality displayed here as this artwork is in fact the result of a ‘painting by numbers’ kit but for me this piece is priceless.

More recently following the death of my husband and my mum I have written a number of (short and not so short) pieces of fiction; some of which are clearly related to my own life, some less so. Prior to 2010 I had not written this way since childhood although I had always hoped to follow my dad who had some success at publishing short stories in the 1960s. All of a sudden I had some ideas. Thus far I have had a few short stories published both online and as part of my academic sociological writings on relationships and on loss. Earlier this month my first (and I hope not my last) ‘paper’ success was published in a collection following the annual women’s fiction competition by the Hysterectomy Association

In addition to these experiments with art and writing I also find knitting
therapeutic and fun and I enjoy the pleasure that friends express when 
I present them with the scarves and other small garments that I 
have produced.

A scarf in progress
I share these personal examples
not in any way as ideals or
exemplars but to illustrate that 
any of us, maybe all of us,
whether we consider ourselves
to be artistic or not, 
can find comfort, pleasure
and a sense of achievement
in such work.

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