Before we went to Ireland and very nearly after we returned I was hammered by deep grief. This is definitely one of those subjects people do not want to think about, let alone talk about; which becomes part of the problem. I remembered the ‘stages’ of grief from my hospice training twenty years ago, and yet I could not peg myself into the exact stage I was in.
So I did what any logical person would do, I googled it. I found It’s Ok That You Are Not OK by Megan Devine on Amazon which I quickly loaded to my Kindle. I read for days and quite quickly figured out the reason this grief was so different from past griefs. This one was deep, deeper than any before it.
Two things lifted me out of it. I know it is early, and it may return but so far, so good. The two things were: realizing this grief was so deep was because in the past three years I have experienced 19 losses. NINETEEN. Nine friends have moved out of state, two friends died, one simply walked away, our old dog died, my lil sis lost in dementia, four elders died, and my dearly beloved has descended further into Parkinson’s. Yep, that’s a few…
The other thing that worked was writing. As you know if you read this often, I love to write. It is often how I figure things out, as in self-therapy. So I pulled up a chair and began to write about these 19 losses, and how sorrowful I feel about my husband’s illness, whereas before I have only felt anger…another stage of grief. The only reason I write this down, in my blog, is to bring grief out of the closet.
A piece of my immobilizing grief was how will this affect my art practice? Will I ever make art again? Am I done? Is this it? Who am I if not an art-maker?
I don’t believe I am done. I have a lot more I want to say. I am doing a lot of hand-stitching which is really meditative and when I sit in my studio, surrounded by cloth and colors, I know my work here is not finished. It’s funny, this muse. It can take you down as fast as it can lift you up. I trust, and do honestly believe there is more to come.
Interestingly enough, the muse, and Marion have already led me in a new direction. I have decided to mentor a good friend on her creative path. I have thought of it before, and always stopped as I know I cannot change other people’s behavior, although I have vast experience in trying to…i.e., 48 years of marriage! And yet this time it became abundantly clear that Marion had a hand in this.
Marion was not only an extraordinary friend; she was the most generous artist I have ever met. Even as her days were numbered, she was encouraging me to apply for a public art project or submit work for an art purchase. So often she pushed me out of my comfort zone, to consider my long-term & end goals for my art, and to do stuff that just plain scared me. Would I ever have applied for a grant were it not for Marion? No. Did I get a grant? Yes!
So I have decided to pay it forward, with gratitude. I don’t need to change anyone’s behavior but rather share the generosity that was bestowed on me; to push her out of her comfort zone and encourage her to do the stuff that scares.
This person knew Marion solely through my work and respected her so very much. She called recently to wish me a happy opening to our upcoming exhibit in San Diego, which she perceived might be difficult for me, so soon after Marion’s death. She is a big fan of both Marion’s work and of my work. It just seems as though Marion is orchestrating this, from the great beyond.
I anticipate my friend’s creativity will grow, as will my own.
Nancy Lemke says
Thanks for this Carol. A dear friend died recently, and I have been feeling very drab and sad. He was the first of a group of peers, and I hate what this brings home for future losses. Irritatingly no one else in this group is very expressive with their feelings, so I passed through one of my old faithful stances of feeling nuts for being sad. Fortunately, I encountered another friend who said I’d be nuts to NOT be sad! Life goes on….
What a great idea you have for paying it forward!
Nancy, I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. And yes, it is perfectly normal to feel drab and sad. (great words btw). I know as we age this becomes more commonplace. I have lost four great friends to cancer so far. It never gets easier. Keep taking good care of yourself. Maybe we can share a hug at Visions on the 20th?
Cindy L Kelleher says
You have been through so much in a short amount of time. I think it was very introspective to seek information and knowledge on the stages of grief. I know you know them from your Hospice volunteering, but it isn’t the same as when it on your own doorstep. Marion lives on in you, and whoever you mentor. And your art, your heart, will go out and that one special person will be so lucky to have you mentoring them. And forward it goes, on and on.
Thank you so much Cindy! This author even scoffs at the stages of grief. Apparently they were named as a guidepost, but not a proven process. Interesting!
Gay Robbins says
Thank you for writing this. I am such a cheerful person that I don’t always know how to handle sadness. I do know that shared pain is better than isolated grief.
Thank you Gay! I am basically an optimist so like you, I find sadness to be unnerving. I once had a friend (who also died) who said sadness beyond 3 days is depression. So it is always a goal to figure it out before three days is up!
Judith D Block says
Please keep sharing your thoughts and feelings through your writing; you are paying it forward through your words– helping others you do not know in ways you can not imagine. The ripples from a pebble thrown in the water reach far.
Thank you so much! I do love the visual of that pebble.
Cate Markey says
What an excellent post Carol. It is heart opening to read this. Love to you as you traverse this life.
Thank you so much, fellow traveler!
Linda Chase says
Carol, what a wonderful undertaking to launch in the face of grief. I find that in my sadness over my husbands depression, and the physical ailments of my life long cluster of friends, my ability to make art just disappeared. However, learning to restore myself through the creative process eventually helps in the healing. I admire your work,and spirit and look forward to meeting you and spending a little time chatting when you are at Visions for the opening. As we continue to grow and age, suffering loss becomes part of our environment. As we learn to adjust, awkwardly at first, grace seems to hold us up. I am reminded that perhaps we are grieving for past generations too, who have left their mark on our genes. When it gets too much, I say to my ancestors, yes I feel your grief and honor it. Now let me be in the present moment right here, in these shoes, right where I stand.
Thank you so much Linda. I also look forward to meeting and conversing with you. And grace…just love that work and all it entails. Clearly we are on the same wave length!
Carol, you are, as always, an inspiration. You are every bit the leader and nurturing person that Marion was. The sharing you are doing here and the mentoring in your future, certainly acknowledge that. And it sounds like you will have the support you need to breeze through the reception at Visions with grace and a smile. Bravo! And thank you.
Thank you so much Franki…and you are welcome! It is not always easy to be so open in a public forum, and yet I am after all, a storyteller! xo