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Art Weekend And Grieving


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I am in the middle of my second three-day art workshop weekend. I want to learn watercolor and last weekend was mostly focused on techniques with some focus on feelings. I got a scholarship to this mixed media weekend as a thank you for my donating ads to the sponsoring group who opened this non profit art center this summer. I did not realize that the focus of this second weekend is process. Led by an incredible artist who is both artist and natural born psychologist who also teaches women's studies at our local university, we are spending the entire weekend focused inward. As a result the workshop is intense. It is about getting in touch with feelings of all kinds; looking at the whole of our lives and how creativity has threaded itself or been dammed up through the years and putting our feelings into color and shape and collage. It is a very safe environment because of the leader's skill and sensitivity. There are only seven students...all women. Most, not all, of us have shed tears; shared openly of ourselves; and taken risks. Two of us are therapists, me being one of the two. The other one lost a daughter recently so she and I are shedding the greatest number of tears. I am grateful for her presence. We connected and she knows we will grieve our losses forever.

Last night, after the first day of this workshop, I dreamed Bill died and that our home was filling up with water....i.e. that I was drowning in sorrow...that is how it felt. (I know it is related to my remembering, at the class, a night when Bill was frozen as he stood by his walker....telling me he could not move because the room was filling with water. He was hallucinating with a new Alzheimer med that we changed the next day. God only knows what dreams I will have tonight. I am grateful I have done the grief work I have done or I would have had to leave this workshop but the timing was good for this. Three months ago I do not think I could have stayed. I am left exhausted at the end of each day. Tomorrow is the final day...8 more hours. The instructor will be teaching here (at this nearby art center) once a month with an open studio day or instruction day.) I have no clue what tomorrow will bring. But as a result of this weekend I feel extremely fragile tonight; more in touch with my pain and my gigantic loss; more aware that Bill is really gone; more aware of all he was/is to me; more aware of all we had and how few people have what we had; missing him so very much; raw and emotionally drained and emotionally naked. In spite of all this, it feels right to be there somehow...expressing my journey in art in a group of women who seem to hear me as much as possible.

The weekend is opening wounds that had only the slightest of membranes protecting them. The membrane gets torn opened on a daily basis when I get ambushed or come home to a silent house but this opening is different I guess because it has gotten me in touch with so much about Bill, his death and my loss. I want him to be here tonight with me and wrap himself around me... so I can share this weekend with him....no one else matters right at this moment. The pain is raw and excruciating and I suspect I will dream about all this tonight again. I am sure this sounds like torture to some who may not have ever done a weekend like this but actually it is healing to be free to express in words and art in a safe environment. It is therapeutic. Therapy hurts many times. It is hard work.

I thank you all for listening as I have rambled on tonight. I will be posting tomorrow as this experience comes to an end and I am left to go forward with all that I have looked hard at these three days.

Mary

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Dear Mary,

It sounds to me what I have been going through at my hospice group meetings. I go once a week when my health has let me. At first my emotions were very raw. Like you and Bill have, and I say still have, because he is in your heart and soul. You two were like one in many ways. Pauline and I were the same way you never saw one of us without the other. We are connected so deep together, even death could not take the real Pauline away from me. Yes her body is gone, and I miss the human contact so much. That is all we lost. I think this class, sessions are doing you a world of good.

I think you should find your local hospice group, through your VNA and start going to as many of the group meetings as possible. My VNA has, one meeting a month just for the loss of spouse. They have meetings here in Fall River 3 times a month and up in Raynham about 30 minute drive. I go there twice a month. All the talking real get those deep emotions to come out. At first I could not help but cry many tears when it was my turn to talk about Pauline and I. Now I get through them much better. Not to say where I don't have my moments when the tears fall again.

I commend you on getting you feelings out the way you have. As a psychologist, you must know the best thing to do is to talk about those deep raw emotions.

If you ever want to just talk I am just a phone call away, and it is just one hour difference in time. I am just one hour ahead of you. I am a very good listener and can make good conversation. I hope to hear from you some day. Keep up the good work as hard as it is you will come out better when you are done.

God Bless, you Mary, I pray that our Healing and loving God brings you peace and comfort into you heart, mind and soul, I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Your Friend

Dwayne

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Dear Mary, I will be thinking of you today. I suspect this whole weekend will be very therapeutic for you, but, as you said, sometimes therapy hurts. I am sorry for the hurt.

Mary (Queeniemary) in Arkansas

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It sounds very intense but good. Art in itself can be wonderful therapy, I got a therapist for my daughter once that specialized in art therapy (my daughter loves art). It can be a very good way to express ourselves and be in touch with ourselves and combined with psychology, very effective. Good luck to you!

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Hi Mary,

I got an email through griefshare this morning and part of what it said reminded me that by grieving I am healing. I am so glad that you are able to face this weekend and travel through these painful emotions and memories. Here is the qoute.

"Each time one of these emotions comes flooding back it is a sign that you are recovering"

Congratulations at being able to feel and heal. You are making great progress.

Hugs! Cheryl

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Mary, dear, you're working so hard despite the pain ~ and for that you have our deepest admiration and respect. I am so grateful to you for having the courage and the generosity to share the details of your experience with all of us

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Dear all,

First, thank you for replying and for reading that long entry. Your replies support me.

It is evening after my 3 days of process, looking inward, and expressing in art and with others. I had wild dreams last night but none stuck. Just a wild emotional night that left me tired. But today I went to day 3. Today, we did several exercises focused on identifying the core of ourselves and what is needed to support that core....we did this in collage and then shared. I saw the core as a spiritual being rising up out of pain and loss using a lavender fountain lit with lights of all kinds to symbolize myself. Supporting that core was my life with Bill, of course, as he taught me so much and loved me so deeply. We had earlier done an exercise identifying three tapes that play in our heads....ones that keep us from our art. I chose to identify four tapes (always the rebel)....3 that stop me and one that often can override them...that one was the tapes of unconditional love and support I got from my Mom and Bill who both thought I was amazing. In the collage I also saw nature and spirituality and people who hear me as what I need to feel supported on my journey. At the top I put, create a new future. It was quite an intense exercise. No words for it. We also created a box..on the outside identifying what we like that our 5 senses bring to us and on the inside...the sixth sense...what our intuition tells us about ourselves and life.

This one was relevant to my grief journey. I had brought a wedding photo in and as I rummaged through magazines I found a hand mirror..cut out the inside of it and cut it in half...and put it around my face (not Bill's) in the photo. My intent was to acknowledge the need to look at ME right now. Not excluding Bill ever but asking what MY life is to be. We also did a neat exercise called the Next Step...wrapping a shoe that we brought in shipping tape sticky side out and sticking symbols to the tape...symbols that identify the next step in our lives...then wrapping it again with tape sticky side in. We then cut the shoe out of it and we were left with a plastic shoe identifying our next step. When you look in the hole where your foot goes, you see the sole (soul) with a symbol of my soul. I stuck a zipper to my shoe..."unzipping the artist, the spiritual being, the new person"....along with lots of other messages.

I go into detail thinking some of you might enjoy doing some of these exercises as they help so much to get you in touch with what is inside....and expressing it. As you go through the magazines, your inner self just knows which words and pictures means something. I use it a lot as a therapist but today was MY turn. It was an excellent weekend....lots of insights...sharing.. tears...intensity. Lots left to do with it.

Then I got in the car to drive home and cried all the way....alone again....with so much pain....so I stopped at a local fund raiser to deposit my raffle tickets (I want to win that iPad :). I felt so alone and raw there that I got back in the car and drove home after chatting briefly with friends but feeling alone and left out in spite of wonderful friends hugging me and reaching out to me. One of them called me just now and said she was looking all over for me and am I coming back? I needed to deal with my dog and I am so drained and lonely for Bill as we went to this fundraiser every year because it donates and supports townies who have unexpected medical bills and who have lost work time etc. It is called 4PeteSake as it started when a farm kid lost a leg in a farm accident. We got him a prosthetic and last year he ran the NY marathon on it and came back to share that with us. We, a town of 1,300 raise $30,000+ in one day. I will return for a hour perhaps. See if I win the scooter or iPad :)

The instructor suggested I continue to create collages over and over. I plan to do one just on my grief and another on the future and on and on I will go utilizing my watercolors as I go. I found a picture of two hands holding a heart wrapped in paper and string and it read "Fragile, hand with care". It will be the center of my grief collage.

All in all these two weekends were very healing but as you all know healing hurts...I remember my broken ankle (playing racquet ball years ago and going after the winning point-which I got btw). It hurt as it knit itself back together. I am knitting myself back together slowly and it hurts. But I consistently refuse to walk away from my process. This unexpected weekend surely was...a gift in so many ways. But it was also a huge risk for me...and i am proud that I leapt off the cliff and learned I could fly again.

I thank you for bearing with these long entries. Now to see where all this leads over the next several months. Peace, Mary

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Mary, dear, you're working so hard despite the pain ~ and for that you have our deepest admiration and respect. I am so grateful to you for having the courage and the generosity to share the details of your experience with all of us

Marty, thank you for your reply and continued support to me and all of us. I continue to be in awe of how you give to us. Thank you.

Mary

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Mary, dear, it is I who am in awe of you, and all the rest of you ~ and you'd better win that iPad, because no one deserves it more ♥

Marty...thank you. You are too kind! I just got home and I did not win anything :) I sat with a friend who did the weekend with me.... came home and collapsed into a chair from which I may not budge all day tomorrow (a day I blocked off except for getting a tire fixed). Exhausted.

Well, the person who won the iPad2 turned it back in for auction to raise more money. I bid but had to stop way too early and it sold for close to $1,000 (value $600). My friend who won the $2,600 scooter turned it back and it was auctioned for $2,200. So they raised more money for struggling neighbors. The young man with 4th stage pancreatic cancer, a recipient this year, had us all in tears. He is the drummer in the General Store band and did one song.....I felt for his young wife- in tears, 30 something, knowing the road ahead for her....Another neighbor of my friend was there and her husband died 3 weeks ago. I told my friend to let her know I was there for her neighbor but that woman is in a major fog right now...one that we all know too well. This town is special, has its share of pain. It is an art area started by Frank Lloyd Wright's school and others followed...I feel blessed to live here. I just wish Bill was here to share it all....of course.

Thanks to all for listening. I feel loved.

Mary

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It sounds like it was a very profitable auction and all for a worthy cause! I'm glad it went so well and you can know you did your part. :)

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