a lilac is stuck in the sand of the beach at a memorial.

What I know about grief

Post by Alyssa Warmland, artist, activist, well-practiced griever.

I earned my “grief card” at 15, when I lost my mother. Since then, I’ve experienced other instances of loss and have become a well-practiced griever. Most recently, I lost a friend in a tragic way. She was deeply connected within our rural Ontario community and as I grieve her loss, I’m watching many other people around me grieve. Some, like me, are experienced in grief. Others are newer to the experience.

The following are some things I know to be true about grief for me, based on my lived experience. Some of them may resonate with you as well. Grief is unique to the people experiencing it in each moment, so please take whatever makes sense to you from this share and leave whatever doesn’t.

– Give yourself space to just feel the waves. Sometimes it feels like it’s not quite so intense, and then sometimes it feels like you’ve just been punched in the stomach. And it’ll cycle around. And it won’t feel this way forever.

– You’re totally allowed to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Last night, while I spoke with sobbing friends on the phone, I was absolutely furious. Today, it’s that gut-punch feeling. it’ll cycle around. And it won’t be this way forever.

– Sharing stories can be helpful. Celebrate the reasons you loved whoever you’re grieving. Look at the pictures. Watch the videos. Sing the songs.

– Be patient with yourself, but keep going through the motions of what you know you need to do to maintain your wellness while you grieve. Eat something, even if you’re not hungry. Sleep or lay down, even if you feel like you’ll never fall asleep (podcasts can help make it less overwhelming). Drink water. Go for a walk outside. Write about it. Work, if you want to work (and plan for some extensions on stuff if you can, so you can work a bit more slowly than usual if you need to)

– Your brain may take a little longer to process things. Your memory may not work as well. You may feel irritable or overwhelmed. It’s okay.

– If the death part itself was hard, try to avoid focusing on the end, and instead think about the person you loved and who they were when they were well.

– Connect with other people who are grieving, it may be easier to know you’re not alone.

To learn more about collective grief, please read Maureen’s post on the topic.

Creative Outlets for Grief

Post by Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW

Creative Outlets for Grief

In the depth of raw, deep grief it can be hard to find words to express your feelings. Perhaps you are not much of a talker, anyway. Maybe this terrible tragedy has left you speechless. There may be no words for the terrible experience you find yourself caught up in.

In times like this, expressive arts can provide a way for the feelings to flow. Such a release of feelings can ease the pain a little, as you put move some of the painful emotions gripping your heart out into the world. Making art can help shift the emotional burden you’re carrying, making it more manageable. Your creative pieces can help people understand what you feel like.

Music

Sing your sorrows out by making up lyrics to a familiar tune that brings you comfort. As your own words flow with the music you can feel the emotions flow, too.

Alternately, maybe you have a brand new melody rolling through your mind with words and phrases joining together to express your feelings. Writing your own song can be a powerful path to share your experience.

Drawing and Painting

Whether you prefer pencils, oil pastels or paints, creating images and using colour can be freeing. Sometimes an abstract piece that is full of colour  or dark with shadows shows your internal landscapes as you navigate your grief. Other times it can feel comforting to create an image that is symbolic of your memories of the person who died and sentiments related to your grief.

Collage

Creating memorial collage, or a scrap-book style memento is an alternative to drawing and painting for those who feel more comfortable selecting images and words and arranging them together. Using photographs, personal mementos, old magazines and craft supplies, you can create a beautiful tribute to your person that honours your relationship and memories.

Dance and Theatre

Choreography of a series of movements especially designed to express the range of your feelings or in memory of your loved one. Creating scenes that represent important moments in your relationship, or incidents of your grief experience. Through physical actions such as these, you may gain a sense of relief as you embody emotion and bring your inner world to life.

Poetry

A poignant turn of phrase. A description that creates a vivid image. Words that link together thoughts, feelings and illustrations of your experience of love and loss. Poetry can be short and simple, or it can be long, meandering through events. It can rhyme, but it doesn’t have to.

Journaling and Memoir

Writing about your feelings and experiences can be healing. If you take time regularly to create a safe and comfortable space to write in, with privacy and permission, you can begin to understand what has happened. Writing can help you make sense of your story, and move it out into the world in a way that helps you feel relief. When your story is written and rewritten until it offers insight and recovery, it may even be ready to share with others to offer support, understanding and hope for those who come after you in your particular experience of loss.

It can be painful to talk about grief. Yet healing usually involves finding someway to hold the pain, to express the experience and shift your perspective in order to ease the burden of carrying loss that is yours for life. If talking is too hard, experiment with making art.

Remember:

  1. There is no way to do this wrong. All of your art is meaningful and important just because it is yours.
  2. You don’t have to share any art you don’t want to. This process is for your healing first and foremost.
  3. Your grief is your own to navigate, in your own way, at your own pace, with expressive art or without. You are always free to choose.