The Artist's Dilemma
The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain. -Lord Byron
It is a great idiom of the art world that in order to create great art you need to experience great pain. The grief and pain that torments the artist is often where the most touching and profound work can be found and shared. The connection to the universal humanity of agony of grief and trauma. It is always a fear to be alone in your grief. Perhaps that is why art therapy can be so healing. The act of creation can channel some of that acute emotion into something that can be shared. You are almost unloading the burden of grief piece by piece with each creation. It is something that you alone can control. The blank canvas that you alone can brush the contents of your soul onto and see it contained and released. Creation has always been a haven for me in times of sadness. A hallowed space to express and in find some solace in creation. Today I will outline a few ways you can find your art therapy of choice to express all of the sensations that we exist in.
My sister decided a long time ago to share her journey as a mother-to-be, mother, and finally grieving mother of a child with a congenital disease. Her art is her writing. She created some of the most beautiful and painfully true stories documenting her journey. It allows people from all over the world to follow Tilly's journey. It educates, shares, and connects people through the act of her dedication and creation. Writing holds so much power in this ability to unite and connect. To tell a story that can strike a chord and make someone feel seen in their own journey. This act of writing, crafting each word as a representation of yourself, is a therapy. Deciding how you feel and molding it into sentences that you can share (or not) with others. The healing is in the writing. The power is in the sharing.
This incredible edible art form is one of the most nourishing ways to practice art therapy. It engulfs all of the senses with its tastes and aromas. Many people find memory, comfort, and love in the act of cooking. It can bring to life the spirits of your heart. Whether it's grandma's cookies or in my case my mother's soups. There is pride in this creation and fuel for the mind and body to heal. It is a favorite to share and find community in this artistic healing.
Taylor Swift has literally made a career out of exercising this talent with the world. Chronicling the painful, sad, traumatic, and even silly parts of your life in an aria of sharable lyrics and melody. The music itself has a soul - pun intended. Even if you don't want to pen the next big break-up hit song listening or playing the songs of others can be healing.
A picture is worth a thousand words and one word can inspire a thousand pictures. It is a beautiful paradox of the visual arts. Painting, drawing, and photography are such powerful tools to capture an emotion or feeling. To make someone truly feel seen or represented. I started drawing when Tilly was in the hospital which led to me illustrating and publishing a few children's books. My last one featured Tilly, who Auntie Coco (who is magical) transforms along with her brother into dogs. I drew Tilly with her Trach, the dog had one too. I did not know until after publication that there are very few if any, books that show children with trachs. I will always be grateful that Tilly got to see herself represented in that book. There is power in visual representation. It is a gift we can give, even if unintentionally, to those who don't get celebrated with representation.
From wind chimes to quilts these physical arts can be an incredible way to channel your emotional energy. My mother is a wonderful quilt maker. Her latest creation, a Halloween-themed wall hanging, features hand-sown ladybugs to represent our Tilly. Much like cooking, crafting is an opportunity to mold your experience into something that can be shared and experienced together.
"Whatever you feel just dance it." This line from the infamous film (to my generation anyway) Center Stage still rings true. The use of dance to embody your emotions and release pent-up tension. Yoga and mindful movement combines physical exercise with mindfulness to ground yourself.
The healing process is highly individual. Find the outlet that works for you. The key is to explore different creative outlets and find what resonates with you. Here are some tips for incorporating art and creativity into your healing process:
Begin with no expectations: Let go of the idea that your art needs to be perfect. It's about the process, not the end result.
Create a safe space: Establish a designated space where you can freely express yourself without judgment.
Be patient with yourself: Healing is not linear. Some days you may find comfort in creativity, while on others, you may not.
Seek guidance: Consider working with a therapist or counselor who specializes in art therapy to guide you through your healing journey.