Creative approaches to GRIEF with Uma Girish
What I know for sure is that creativity is part of your arsenal of healing tools when grief hits, and make no mistake, grief comes not just with a death.
Grief can take up residence in us when any loss occurs in our life.
There are the tangible ways of using creativity to help you to heal and release grief, and there are the intangible ways.
First of all, you have the power to create a place of your own where you will begin to heal your grief. You can create a comforting place to support yourself. Think about what that would look like for you. Is this space in your home? Does this space include time in nature? Does it mean simply turning off your email and phone for a few hours? Does it mean treating yourself to a massage to soothe your physical body? Can you claim a corner in your home as a safe haven, creating a soft space with a comfy chair, your favourite book and perhaps a scented candle. We tend to create a barrier to the expression of the pain of grief. By creating a safe place and space to express our grief, we allow ourselves to feel it and release it—bit by bit. Our grief is given permission to come from the shadows into the light.
When grief comes up, we often want to fix it quickly and easily. That has not been my experience of grief. Grief is a journey. It’s a journey to restore yourself.
What I’ve found is there is the visible part of grief that’s the tip of the iceberg. Then, there’s the vastness of the iceberg that lies below the surface and runs to the ocean’s floor. That part of my grief is often triggered by other moments of loss during my everyday life. This part of grief is really helped by art and mark making. Mark making exercises can help you name, claim and release these feelings, rather than push them further down into the depths of the ocean.
Bringing feelings of loss or grief to the surface by making them visible and tangible has always helped the visual learner in me to recognize and heal. I have found mark making lets me express at a deeper level than other creative forms like writing will.
It takes courage to grieve. Be gentle with yourself.
Do it in stages. Hold it softly. Honour where you are in the moment.
Take the time you need. When my mother died, I created a painting titled, First painting after my Mother’s death. At the time, it was painful and hard for me to look at. I put this painting into storage in a back corner of my Father’s basement for over 11 years. It’s only now that I am ready to reclaim it. I brought it home a couple of weeks ago, and it’s hanging in my home. It’s a reminder of how I ran through grief and was able to reclaim my own joy, while still honouring the journey and lessons grief brought me.
You don’t have to be an artist to embrace the power of your own creative mark making to heal grief.
Find out more about two grief releasing creative exercises I shared on
I was excited to be asked by Grief Guide, Uma Girish, to be a guest on her podcast, The Grammar of Grief. Uma is one of the founders of the International Grief Council, and the author of two insight-filled books on grief, Understanding Death, and, Losing Amma, Finding Home.
Uma and I had a fantastic discussion on her podcast about the power of creativity to help heal and release grief. In the half hour episode, I walked her through two creative meditative exercises—creating a Grief Mandala, and a grief mask. Both the can easily be done with simple supplies. I invite you to listen and open your creative heART to the opportunity to release. Listen here to experience the two exercises. I know you’ll want to subscribe to her podcast to hear the depth and breadth of Uma’s expertise on a regular basis!
Reminder: If you want to know more about reclaiming your mark making delight—not only as a way to help you work through grief—but as a practice to bring the joy of creative expression into your life—you can book a Creative Clarity session with me via Skype. Together we can create a bespoke program to help you move through
More musings on the visual nature of grief
I wanted to share my first experience of the healing power of visual expression to release grief. I think you’ll agree the two paintings (below) I made in the time after my Mother’s death are remarkable in that they visually reflect the journey I was on.
The first painting below on the left was titled, First painting after my Mother’s death. Though it was available at a couple of shows I did many years ago, it never sold. I’m glad because now it hangs in my home and brings me great satisfaction. Full disclosure: it took me over 11 years to bring that painting home and love it. The woman in the painting is running from everything falling down around her. Her eyes are closed because she doesn’t want to be present. I remember that woman. I know her journey and I know she comes out of it to a life of joy!
The second painting below on the right was titled, Second painting after my Mother’s death. This painting sold immediately and I was asked over and over if it was still available. The image in the second painting is much easier to embrace for sure. The woman isn’t quite yet full of joy, but she is opening to the next part of her life and to all that it will bring. She is feeling a little battered still, but she is ready to move forward.
What strikes me so many years later is how I have circled back to send all of my love to both these women who represent my grief. They fill me with peace. I believe I’m at peace because I released my grief through art making, through movement, through mindfulness, whatever means came to me in the moment. I allowed my grief to bubble up in small pieces, in larger pieces, and then I allowed it to move through me. I expressed it. I expressed it without sending it. I invite you to feel the important distinction in the spaces between sending and expressing. I invite you to experience the releasing power of art or mark making to allow your grief to express.