Creative Responses to Grief: Part 1

Grief is a response to loss. It is a form of love and it evolves over time. When grief is integrated, you can open up again to others.
— Loss, Love and Grief, The Centre for Grief
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There is nothing Romantic about death or dying. Yet many, especially creative individuals, lean into their imagination to better cope with death. The creative process has its gifts like breadcrumbs forming a pathway through the dark forest.  Imagination and the act of creation in response to painful life experiences encourages a deeper understanding of oneself and the relationship one has lost.

 It is the heart left behind in the process of grieving that can find nourishment in the creative journey. Conversations with the self and the 'other' through art, music, poetry, filmmaking, movement and writing, all offer a doorway in to meaningful engagement when faced with the death of a loved one. This is where one may find a home, a place of opening and containment. The creative response can be described as Romantic, in that it carry's the individual forward on a wave, reforming the content, alchemising the grief. 

"Meaning makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything.”

—C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 340

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Some hearts need to respond Romantically to death and mine absolutely did. The shape of this came in my response using pencils, pens and crayons. Art making was a way of stepping up and greeting that unwanted guest in the only way I could. This approach gifted me a language to stay with, rather than run and hide. I felt there was no way, other than making images to explore the geography of my loss. A visual journal helped me while away hours, accept the unacceptable, ponder the 'out of control' reality of my own lack of power, and navigate through the complete unknown landscape of my emotions. More importantly I think at the time, it afforded me a period that extended beyond the actual date of death, keeping aspects of my relationship with my father alive, through the simple act of making.

 Dealing with the dying and death of my father, allowed me to gracefully acknowledge the most certain yet unknown thing in life.

Dealing with the dying and death of my father, allowed me to gracefully acknowledge the most certain yet unknown thing in life.


My sketchbook

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became a life line, a place to actively grieve. Opening the blank pages invited a space that became filled with unusual imagery and feeling/ mind states that had no name.

Doodling 'mindlessly' was an active way for me to stay in the presence of grieving.  

I stayed; listening to the pictures that emerged, and honouring the stories until one day I no longer needed to do it anymore. The sketchbooks went away. Silent treasures laid to rest in cardboard boxes for year on year.

Reflections

I can look over my creations that tell my own story back to me. They gave me something to own in a moment of my life that suddenly took on a very transparent and unsubstantial form. 

Death takes away, but in honouring death in our own way, we can gain something sacred back too.

An Invitation:

If you are interested in participating in an open and creative dialogue about death and dying you are warmly invited to the Bishop Grosseteste University campus May 4th - May 6th 2018.  

As part of the nationwide Dying Matters week the University is inviting members of the public to attend their Death Conference; Creative Responses to Death and Dying. Please click here for more information and to book your place. Thank you.

 

Charlotte Jane Kessler