Deep Thought Thursday: Grief

Dealing with grief is an area I don't consult in. Yet, all artists must deal with grief at one point in time. I just don't feel equipped to give advice in this area. (I will say, however, that acupuncture provided fast healing during the only time I experienced debilitating grief.) So, I’m turning it over to you, wise souls, in hopes that our collected wisdom can help someone.

Image ©Dianne Poinski, Reaching

Read this email that came to me.

I’ve learned a great deal from your books/blog/podcasts but this is a topic that I haven’t seen covered.

Recently I’ve taken on a big exciting art project which was really gaining momentum — and then, well, life got in the way.

My mother suddenly got very ill and I had to drop everything to go be with her.

Within a week she passed away and I’ve just gotten back home after the wake, funeral etc.

My siblings have “regular” jobs which they are returning to but I’m feeling overwhelmed and at a loss as to how to pick up the pieces of my self-employed artist life.

Part of me thinks “getting back into the swing of things” would be a good distraction but it all feels like too much. I’m overdue for updating my blog, client newsletters, etc. The press is calling me for interviews, which is great, but I’m not sure I can face any of that right now.

Do you have any advice on how to handle this? Do I just pretend everything is fine and dandy? I know in time it probably will be. My big project is so deadline dependent that I can’t decide if I should just ditch it all — but that would make me feel even worse, I think.

I know grieving takes time but I feel like if I had a plan I would do better…

What advice would you give?

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39 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Grief”

  1. To be sure grief is difficult enough because it clouds the mind. If you are a person of faith as I am then you can pray to God to strengthen you and use the trial to mold and shape you. If you are not a person of faith you should exercise and perhaps seek the assistance of Dr. Cannabis.

  2. First of all, I am so very sorry for your loss. Truly.

    Second of all, be very kind to yourself.

    Grief is something you have to work through so recognize it, acknowledge and give yourself blocks of time to deal with it. You can set limits, like okay I will be very sad for fifteen minutes and then I am going to go do something else. Even if it is every other fifteen minutes for awhile. 😉

    Also give yourself blocks of time to honor your mom by being the artist you are. Wouldn’t she want that? Tackle your work in reasonable small chunks even if it is 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there.

    And if you can, ask for help with some of the “have to get these done” tasks.

    Eventually, not immediately, but eventually you’ll be able to get to a point where you smile at having had that particular person in your life, as a true gift, and the essence of that person will be right there beside you. In a good way. I believe the word is poignant, but good in the end.

    and last.. accept a virtual hug from a fellow artist.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. I think a lot of Alyson’s advice for non grieving folks will help you a lot now, you might revisit older posts. Start every day dressed and ready to work. Allow yourself time be sad and to have days where not much happens, but look for opportunities to break up your routines a bit. Meet other artists for coffee, get out of the studio …try taking a class or working in a different room, working outside…something to break up your current routines. When my Mom died I created affirmations that helped me get through those dark days. Just remember, you are your Mother’s daughter and you have all of her strength within you.

  4. Allison J Smith

    You’re an artist, you must make art to free your emotions. If you’re not sure how, or it doesn’t seem to work well, try this book: Painting from the Source. It teaches artists how to use their art to suvive even the strongest emotional experiences. You will find joy through this pain.

  5. I must agree with the previous posting. You need to make a plan to work for 1 hour or 2 hours or whatever you feel you can handle to begin with. But make some art that you want to make that will soothe the spirit.

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss…just went through losing my mom and my boyfriend leaving. So I had a tremendous amount of grief to get through. I did it by letting myself feel my feelings for as long as it took…but just went deep into it. I journaled, meditated, talked (cried) endlessly to family and friends,walked/hiked, listened to my spiritual tapes (Lazaris) and forced myself…and I mean forced, myself to do my art work. I had commissions that had to be done..I had no choice and two kids to care for. It was a lot, at times I felt like I was holding on by a thread…but time absolutely helps. Getting out in my garden and comedies as well helped me lighten up. Good luck! Kathryn

  7. Losing a mother is a devastating time of life. I know this through experience with my wife. We lost her mother in 2001. It takes a while to get over. Fortunately we have two children she could focus on. This seemed to take up time but rest assured it was no replacement for the loss you feel. The one piece of advice I can give you from first hand experience is don’t shut anyone out. Remember that your Husband/wife or family is there for you. Grieve and mourn your loss. Life goes on, but you have to give yourself time to celebrate the life your mother had. As an artist I seem to use art as therapy. A few years back I had a lot of friends and family members going through divorce at the same time. I happened to be sculpting a pair of hands demonstrating the union of marriage (The Vow) and when this all hit me I cast another pair in plaster and broke the wedding finger off. I painted the piece black and very deliberately started gouging cracks and scratches in to the finish. When it was all done I called it broken vows. That piece gets a lot of attention whenever I show it and I seemed to come to grips with the situation a little faster.

  8. I am sorry for your loss. I lost my best friend and brother 9 years ago, and that was the absolute hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. I agree with many of the same posts. Take time to honor and remember your mom, both the good and the ugly. Perhaps start a journal, writing down the things that you want to remember most about her. Put yourself on a schedule. It should help you with two things; getting your mind off of your loss temporarily, and keeping track of the items that you need to accomplish for your career. Remember that you have put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and I can’t imagine that your mom would want you to let it slip away. Think of your artwork, and the commitments related to that as your job, and it won’t seem nearly as hard to move forward. I like what one artist said, and I hope she doesn’t mind if I borrow it… please accept another virtual hug from a fellow artist with deepfelt sincerity…

  9. I am so sorry that you have lost your mother. A few years ago I had to put my dog down (13 years old and like my first child to me) and then my father passed away later that same year. I felt like I had the flu in that I didn’t want to do anything, which is very unlike me in that I usually have several different things going on at once. I have a wonderful husband and 2 kids and that was a huge help and welcome distraction. However, when my father died I stifled a great deal of my grief because I was trying so hard to prop up my mother and put on a strong face for my kids since they adored their grandfather. This came back to haunt me later, so please don’t bottle up your grief.

    Artistically, my mom gave me some great advice. She told me to go into my studio and just play around with my paints, fingerpaint if I have to. Don’t put any pressure on myself that this painting was going to be for this show or that gallery, just play with the paint and see what happens and sure enough it worked. I let art function as therapy and it lured me back.

    Once I started returning to the studio, I was easy on myself. I kept to subjects that I’d done before and felt comfortable with. I wasn’t ready to forge any new creative ground, but I wanted to work.

    Allow yourself time. Pamper yourself and take small steps. I can’t tell you whether you should ditch your big project, only you can answer that, but if it feels like it’s too much right now then let it go. Or if throwing yourself into a deadline-driven project sounds like a welcome distraction, then go for it. There’s no wrong answer.

    Take care of yourself.

  10. My deepest sympathies for your loss. I think you need to re-establish some sort of routine to your days while also allowing yourself time each day to grieve. I would suggest temporarily handing over some of the non-creative tasks, such as blog updates and client newsletters, to someone else. Could you do the interviews by email instead of in person so that you can deal with it on your schedule?

    As everyone else has mentioned, please be good to yourself.

  11. I am so sorry for your loss, I realize that the weight of things that you “need” to do will be adding pressure to you at a time when you don’t need any pressure. take some time to relax. then do something small, something easy, something quick to get it off your list, and to get that feeling of achievement.

    I agree with most of the people here that getting into the studio is most important and probably most helpful, but don’t push yourself and make it hard. just make a plan to go to the studio for 15 minutes. even if you just sit in there and feel, or sketch or stare at the wall get in there. no agenda, no push. maybe inspiration will come and you will want to stay in there more and create but it has to come naturally. if you are still having difficulties getting back into creation after a while I find doing technical exercises or learning something new, practicing something or playing helps.

  12. I lost my father 23 years ago. I struggled with that grief for years.

    One day I was in a grievous funk, and I decided to try to draw him from memory. I worked on the drawing for a few hours, and went through many emotions while doing it.

    The next day I located everything of his that I had, and created an art collage of many of his items, along with some pics and sketches and single words and painted abstracts.

    Creating art based on him was hard, and evoked many emotions, but I found that afterward, I was relieved and ready to create my own work again.

    I highly recommend this exercise, even though it is a difficult one.

  13. All of the thoughts above may be helpful to you. Another thought, somewhat like Lisa Penny’s, might be that the act of creation, and nurturing your creative self can be an active honoring of your mother’s memory. When my mother died, I made art that quietly referred to her in ways that only I knew. I often still do that, though she died 17 years ago. Her presence is always there.
    A wonderful artist friend suggested to me that, when artistically blocked, it’s helpful to think of an artist I admired greatly and ask myself what she/he would say to me at that moment in time. This has been helpful to me to. Know that your mother would only want the best for you, creative and personal success. With that knowledge, allow yourself time to heal, and slowly, methodically get back to work.
    Best of luck to you.

  14. Blessings to you in your sacred time of grieving. Dr. Christiane Northrup says that the only cure for grief is grieving. You have received excellent advice here, and you will take from it what works for you. I send you a hug. Know that I admire your strength. I understand what you are going through. This painful time is a gift to your art. Feel all your feelings, don’t push yourself into situations that don’t feel good, allow others to help you. Keep your own timetable. Forgive others their insensitivity (then avoid them for a while). Be grateful for your deadlines and use them to keep you stepping forward. Let your mother’s love surround you. Many blessings.

  15. My grief is very recent as well. The book On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler was helpful to me.

    I flow with my grief. When my husband first died I felt a sense of accomplishment if I got one thing done a day. After a few days of just getting one thing done I was able to work up to two, etc. I set my priorities according to the consequence. If it would cost me money it got top priority, if there was a penalty it was next, if someone else could do it it was next, etc. For example, I needed to pay my bills because it would cost me money and cause future consequence (turn off the utilities).

    I still backslide and sometime only get one thing done. I congratulate myself when I accomplish my task(s) for the day rather than negative talk about what I haven’t done and still need to do.

    Your life will not go back to what it was before your Mother’s passing, but you will find a new normal. It will take at least a year to find that new normal as you’ll need to celebrate the first time without your Mother for Mother’s Day, her birthday, etc. Celebrate her life as she celebrated yours.

  16. Grief is kind of a complex emotion. In part we are sad because there is the loss itself, then also there is the sense that whatever interaction we had with the loved person it it. No more chances for anything else or anything more. In Judaism there are guidelines for celebrating your grief. The first and most important is sitting shivah. This is, of course when grief is at its most intense and so the community comes by and sits with the grief-stricken. There’s a lot of food because the consolers all bring something. Someone is there to make all meals, to hold hands and hug as necessary. There are no chores done that someone else doesn’t do for you.

    For the rest of a month’s worth of days, it’s less intense but still very much on one’s mind and if one is more orthodox then there are daily prayers as well.

    Slowly over the rest of the year one begins to live more outside the grief. For me, it took 2 years before I was able to not be shocked at the fact that the world did not contain my father any more. Anyway, after the first year is over, the gravestone is unveiled.

    Throughout this entire time, laughter is encouraged though humorous rememberences and stories about the lost person. It is a slow process and it varies for each person. Cry when you need to. Find a friend to hug when you need to. Remember all the good things and celebrate them.

    If working on a project that you can dedicate to your mother helps, then give it a shot but don’t force it.

  17. Dear Artist-Friend,
    What a generous community we artists are part of. I have read all these postings and know, that because Alyson posted your letter, many will find what they need to get through the extraordinarily difficult time that goes with the loss of someone so dear as one’s mother. Or spouse, or father, or child or beloved pet.
    I believe I have something a bit different to share with you that will give you relief. Have someone you trust do this with you. Set aside a few hours so you can really do it. Have them ask you just one question. It is a repetitive process, so after asking the question once, and getting the answer, you just continue and ask the question again as many times as needed to assist the person to get relief. They do not get into conversations with you about anything you say. They just give you and acknowledgement like “ok” or “thank you”, etc. And then ask the question once again.
    The question is: Find something that isn’t reminding you of (your mother).
    I have done this process many times and I have seen this simple thing do miracles. It helps the person get their attention to move out beyond the loss. Since grief is such an introverting emotion, the assistance to unstick one’s attention really makes a difference.
    Try it, it is simple and it works.
    As you can, do your art. When I had my own severe loss, I was teaching classes. I really couldn’t do my own work at the time, but in doing examples for the class to help them, it helped me too. And slowly, I got back to my own work.
    Know that you are held with care and healing thoughts by many many people. Your Mom is counting on you to shine as soon as you are able. Do it for her until you are able to do it again fully for yourself. As an artist, you are one of the most valuable people on the planet.

  18. When my father died several years ago I felt exactly how you describe your own feelings. For weeks after the funeral all I did was sit in silence. I felt stunned, overwhelmed, and totally out of sync with my life before the death.

    I think grieving is often difficult because we aren’t really prepared for it. No one talks about it or explains it when you’re growing up. For me it was a new and terrifying experience so I did as much as I could to learn about it. I bought several books on grieving and read them voraciously. One book that was particularly helpful was “Healing Your Grieving Heart” by Alan D Wolfelt.

    When I went back to work I set aside grieving times every day – I visited the cemetery, lit candles, allowed myself to cry my heart out, cooked my dad’s favorite meals, visited places he loved – all in his memory. I also talked to him as I did these things and told him I would never forget him. I bought a grieving journal where I documented all the events that led up to his death as well as the death itself – how it happened and how I felt about it. I also wrote letters to my dad in it, at first daily but as I progressed in the grieving process it dropped to weekly then monthly, then yearly and now it’s only on occasion that I reread or write memories in it. I talked to my family about all my impressions and feelings – my children, my siblings, extended family and friends. I also made sure that I ate well, exercised(long walks) regularly, and got enough rest every day.

    This grieving experience really helped me understand how fragile life is and how I wasted so much time on non-essentials. It helped me re-evaluate what I was doing with my life and commit myself more fully to my own artistic endeavors.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. May your memories of her sustain and comfort you.

  19. I am amazed at the compassion all these responders have shared. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an outpouring. A year before my father died I took a course on death and dying in college, with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ text at the core, as well as an inspired instructor teaching the class. I believe strongly that all things happen for a reason, and we are given the tools to survive if we can see them. The lesson I loved most from this class was the reminder that everyone grieves differently. Don’t let others judge you or tell you how to grieve or how long to take. If it gives you comfort to talk to your mom, take her with you in your studio and make it your sacred space with her. It took me years to rebuild my heart after losing my father. Reaching out to others who had lost loved ones was also incredibly healing. Your intuition and your heart are at the helm right now, let them guide you.
    sending healing thoughts and comfort to you…

  20. I recently dealt with this same issue of grief and trying to get back to work at my easel. For about a month, with deadlines looming I made myself stay there, but everything I produced looked lifeless, flat and uninspired. Finally I decided to set my studio off limits to everyone, collectors, artist friends, my family, etc. till things could turn around. Then one afternoon, I felt I had a huge breakthrough and asked my husband and his good friend to have a look. My work is fairly traditional in western themes, usually on a more pleasant picturesque level, so they were both shocked when they entered the studio and saw my painting of a dying wild band stallion, defeated by another mustang seen stealing his harem in the background, blood and all. I didn’t plan the painting that way, but my intuition drew me there. I’ve decided to keep the painting and hang it here in the studio, as a reminder to myself to create with abandon, the deadlines will take care of themselves. And they have!! :O) The painting is posted on my blog, if you’d like to see it. But the important lesson for me was to keep painting, no matter what. Its the only way to move on. These creations are my artists prayer.

  21. Karl E. Koenig

    I’m by far not an expert here, but I can certainly share my recent experiences and make some recommendations on recovery.

    Just yesterday, I attended the funeral of a brother of a very dear, life long friend. It was a very emotional draining day for all. This person, only 55 years old, when a heart attack took him home to God, was a real shock.

    My accumulated loss and grief: A year ago May 3, I lost my father, after a long illness and steady decline of health, to Alzheimer’s. Two months prior to that, I lost my job – more than a year later, I am still looking for gainful employment. Thirty years in architecture, and now, nothing.
    The year before, I lost two dear uncles, and a dear aunt within three months of each other. Just before that Christmas, of 2007, we put down our 15 year old Sheltie.
    Twenty years ago, finding out I was unable to have children. Not too long after that, finding out my wife could not either. We now have two adopted children, gotten separately, from the Philippines, now 17 and 13. The 13 year old girl, we discovered (a final diagnosis after years of counseling, doctors, psychiatrists, that she was Bi-polar when she was 9 – she went into puberty at the same time)

    My recovery: Reaching out for help, once I realized I could not handle all of this on my own; A return to bicycling for exercise, numerous counseling sessions for depression, getting a complete medical checkup – finding out that dopamine and testosterone levels were low, all depression related; joining support groups for job hunting and grief/loss; doing lots of reading on the subject; networking, networking, and more networking; getting into LinkedIn; following your art biz blog; and returning to church on a regular basis, and becoming actively involved.

    Suggested reads:
    “A Grief Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss” by Jerry L. Sittser
    “When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers” by Jerry L. Sittser
    (these two will really put grief/loss into perspective – they did for me)

    “Turn My Mourning into Dancing” by Henri Nouwen
    “The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom” by Henri Nouwen

    Hope this helps others,

  22. 10 years ago I had tragedy in my life and the grief was overwhelming. It had phases. The first two months I couldn’t even read. I could understand why people take medication for depression even though I did not go that route. I’m normally a very happy person…never experienced true grief or depression before or after.

    The next 4 to 6 months were another phase. I found it very hard to focus on creating art.

    Do not be surprised that if at the end of the year, your art has changed forever, too. That was the most surprising aspect.

    It will take a bit longer than that but you have to be open to the fact that grief is part of life. You will come out of it at some point and you will be happy again. Art will help with this and you need to set priorities for yourself as you have your own needs to tend to now.

  23. I’m sorry for your loss. When my grandmother died two years ago I kept trying to push myself to be active even though I had no energy or desire for my art career at that time. I figured I should keep going- it seemed to me everyone else does- but the more I pushed the more I got nowhere. I ended up taking a break. Once I took the break it was easier to heal and I was able to go back to work. Of course I don’t know if you should keep going or if you need to take a break. Everybody responds to grief differently, but our subconscious never lies. If you can find a way to tap into that, I bet you’ll know what you need.

  24. I lost my mother several years ago, and I just lost an elder friend who was a mentor and supporter. So I know exactly how you are feeling. My advice to you is to do the best you can. Prioritize….and take one day at a time. Recognize that you are not perfect (and neither is anyone else!) Unfortunately, we don’t get to plan these things out. Pick out the commitments that are the most important to do & do those. Check in with yourself & see how you are feeling. Do what you can & be kind to yourself. Things have a way of working out.
    Much sympathy for your loss!

  25. Follow your heart, if you feel you have to move the deadline from your project do it, if you feel you can follow up with your project, and why not? do it as a gift to the memory of your mom keep doing it.
    As some here told Art is also a good way to heal the soul and the mind.
    Use more your soul, your heart and feelings than your mind.
    And keep the positive way of thinking when you start a task and you start thinking her, remember the best moments with her that made you feel happy.
    I know it is not an easy moment. Just another hug to you.

  26. Dear Friend,
    Deepest sympathy upon your loss. It will take time. If you call your local Hospice and ask about grief counseling they will connect you with group counseling. I found it an invaluable experience when my mother died. All present had lost a loved one and it was remarkable how similar our feelings were no matter who we grieved. And there are stages to our grief process and I was pleased to see I had progress tho I felt I was at a stand still. Best wishes to you.

  27. Just after my mother died in 1991, I worked through my grief by painting and/or spending alot of time with and loving my father. We went on a wonderful vacation together to Rhode Island and spent one luxurious week on Block Island. Many collages and paintings have resulted from that trip. We walked the Cliff Walk together one misty morning. The same one he patrolled as a National Guardsman many years ago and so many times as a child, I would sit enraptured by his many stories of capsized ships, etc. This was “home” to him. Our roots in the Pierce family can be traced to Boston.
    From 1991 until the day he died, my father and I were in a comforting mode over the loss of my mother in 1991. To handle that grieving period, we both devoted ourselves to each other. I got to know my beloved father even more. He supported my creative endeavors with ever encouraging remarks and commissioned portraits of him and mother and others. He advised me financially, from his many years of experience and wisdom. I absolutely adored him. He called me his little girl, even though I was 60 years old. One day, he said, “Go in my room and get your baby picture. I want you to have it.” One week later, he had several heart attacks (at the age of 90). I was present when the many machines were hooked up to him and they shocked his body with the defibrillators. I nursed him through several weeks in the hospital, transferred him to a nursing home, visited him every day for 4 months as we was taken to the hospital several times more, transferred to an assisted living situation, back to the hospital, and 2 weeks later, died. His brother died 2 months before he did. Watching my father deteriorate was devastating to both me and my brother. Two months before he died, we also lost my dear mother-in-law, who also encouraged and supported me. She and I even did art shows together for years. Three deaths back to back.
    My brother and I were just re-cooperating from losing our father, when his son was killed in an accident at the age of 21. His only son, my father’s namesake and with whom I shared the same birthday. No birthday will ever be the same. Paul Michael Pierce, dear handsome young man that he was, always called or came over. I can still hear his voice: “Happy Birthday, Aunt Donna.”
    I am comforted that my professional name is Pierce-Clark, not just Clark. I have grown closer to my brother through all this. I have grown closer to my sons who are much like my father and my brother. My brother has grown closer to my sons and vice versa.
    I have, of course, thrown myself into my Weekly Paintings (, exhibits, classes I am teaching, etc………but, the grief really slowed me down. Exhaustion overwhelms me some days, and did so especially shortly after losing my nephew.
    These are such hard times. It has helped me to “write” this response. To share how I handled it… handling it. The doctor tried to give me some pretty strong anti-depressants. I refused after reading the after-affects, of withdraws, etc. Why add more to the mix, when I have my friends, my family, my art as therapy, etc.?
    As artists we are blessed with this diversion, this healing tool. Out of our emotions comes some of our most amazing work. I guess my advice, if this is advice,…do keep painting….do rest when you can….drink lots of water….keep your body in good working order……I also am now walking two miles a day. When I paint, I listen to inspirational CDs. God bless you. God bless us all as we go through these hard times.

  28. I wish I could offer more wise counsel as those who have commented before me, but I can’t. I can emphasize. My sad story brought me to art and painting which saved my life. I am very thankful for the insightful therapist who suggested it.

    Our 2 year old custom home burned on xmas morning around 4am…and as if that were not enough, we lost our 14 year old daughter. We were lucky to survive it ourselves. My life as I had known it ended.

    Art saved me. I have no fixes, no books to recommend, no platitudes of religion. there are none.


    So sorry for your loss. Hopefully these loving responses will help you feel connected to a community of artists. “Be kind to yourself” is not just a trite expression and needs to be repeated at these times. Books on grieving (C.S. Lewis wrote a classIc) and giving yourself credit for anything at all you can accomplish can help. Grief comes and goes, and it usually is worse about 3 months after a death, so be prepared so it doesn’t take you by surprise. There are tasks which can help resolve grief (see William Worden’s work on this), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ( can speed up recovery. Use the faith you have, even if it is the size of a “mustard seed.” If you can do your art, you can make it gift to your loved one.
    Take care of yourself,

    Deborah Cole, Psy.D.
    Columbia, Maryland

  30. As mentioned by some artists above the one and only place I find peace in the midst of storms is by running to God with Whom I have a relationship with. He is Comfort.

    Perhaps it would be healthy to continue with your art, but for a time only for the purpose of your enjoyment. Not with the intension’s of selling, marketing. . . no pressure of that kind. Just for your enjoyment and perhaps for your eyes only.

    Grief saps you of energy. You get up everyday with the coffee pot half full so to speak. So give yourself a break on the days you just can’t get yourself together. You may do this for weeks or months. Fight it some and don’t stay there, but don’t give yourself a hard time over it. Yes, be kind to yourself. Do things that bring happiness. Surround yourself with uplifting friends, laugh, take bubble baths, and naps.

    But just as important – perhaps even more so, immerse yourself in taking care of the needs of someone else. It is also very healthy to get our eyes off of our own circumstances and give to someone else who needs us. Not to neglect yourself, but to gain some perspective and purpose.

    These are all things that have helped me in the past. Praying for you.

  31. There is a whole community of the grief-stricken it seems, but truly when we are so overwhelmed with the pain we feel alone.The comments posted are a testament to this. In the summer of 2007 my 29 year marriage came to a particularly hideous end. I moved away from my grown children and friends and community to be near my elderly mother whose health was failing. Over the course of time her condition worsened and she died a few weeks ago. My artwork, which I tried to continue “around the edges” of what became my main work of caretaking now stands neglected and overwhelming. I have no commissions, no contacts in this new area, and no inspiration. I feel utterly spent and empty. Mother’s Day yesterday was bleak. But I am a woman of faith and know that this is not a random path I am on. We will heal, all of us who have lost. And we are not alone.

  32. Alyson B. Stanfield

    I can only read a few of these at a time because I get all teary. Thank you to everyone who has poured so much love into their comments. I received an email from the person who wrote the letter and she deeply appreciates and is comforted by your words.

    I am touched by your desire to comfort someone you do not know. And I know that sharing your story is also healing for you.

    Thank you for blessing me by being a part of this little community.

  33. Alyson B. Stanfield

    I don’t think it has been mentioned, but I also recommend The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

  34. A few years ago I went thru an intense grieving period that lasted for some time and four important things that helped me deal with that time and still be able to cope with life. 1. I set aside time for grieving – do whatever you need to during that time with no concern for anyone or anything other than the greiving. 2. Although I am a visual artist I found writing to be more apropriate for the grief that I was experiencing. So I wrote down both my thoughts and my dreams. 3. Take care of yourself – get enough rest, exercise and proper nutrition, even if you have to make yourself. 4. Talk to a friend or friends and support groups like us. Here’s a link with some info that is helpful.

  35. I am deeply touched by this outpouring of empathy and helpfulness. I have also experiences some heavy losses and will pass on what I learned from them.

    If you are familiar with recovery from major surgery or injury, view this as a similar process of healing. The fact it that it is physical as well as mental, emotional and spiritual. When we experience deep loss, our brains produce chemicals which cause a lot of the sensations we experience – detachment, problems with focus, concentration and memory, etc. This isn’t something that you can overcome by willpower, it requires time and gentle persuasion. You need to give yourself time and space to grieve while not giving up on yourself or your life.

    I have always been self-motivated and organized but when I suffered my deepest loss, my employer (and close friend) had to instruct me, telling me the one thing that I needed to do next, each step of the way. By having blinders on, I was able to avoid overwhelm and make progress. It was a strange experience for both of us, but it worked. You might ask a close friend for that kind of help or perhaps do it yourself by picking only one thing at a time to focus on.

    Most of all, realize that you are injured and it will take time to heal. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend in the same circumstances.

    You have my most heartfelt condolences.

  36. I am so sorry for your loss.

    When my mother died unexpectedly last August, I was totally blind-sided by the intensity of my grief.

    Having had a terrible/traumatic time flying home in “normal” clothes, I decided that I needed an outward symbol of my fragile inner state as a sort of warning to others to “handle with care. ”

    So I took to wearing black in mourning, and although I don’t know that it meant anything to anyone else (don’t artists always wear black?), I found it to be a huge comfort to me.

    On days when I felt unable to cope, I would notice my black clothes and remember, “Oh, right. There’s a legitimate reason I’m so out of sorts.”

    And on better days, I would notice my black clothes and feel proud that I was beginning to get it together.

    I posted a photo of my mother on my blog, letting folks know what I was going through, and then simply ignored my online life for the next few months.

    As far as producing work, I had several special commissions to complete, and called each customer, explaining my circumstance. Each one was generous about giving me extra time to deliver the work.

    Once those commissions were done, I felt so drained and unable to create, I allowed myself the next 6 months off. If I felt like creating, then I did, but I didn’t force it. (Because I also have a part-time job, I was lucky in that I didn’t have to be creative to pay the rent.)

    Instead, I turned my energy to exercise. Specifically, I played a LOT of hockey, which I would recommend to anyone with intense emotions to work through.

    For me, nothing could beat that sense of intense focus on something else (to the exclusion of every other thought/feeling), and beating at the puck with a stick was absolutely therapeutic! And it was a way to have fun, which I couldn’t seem to do any other way.

    I heard somewhere that grief isn’t like the flu, something you get over. Grief is more like an amputation, a permanent loss that you eventually learn to live with. This view helped me be easy on myself and not expect a quick return to “normal.”

  37. Ellene Breedlove Davis

    Hello Dear Friend,

    I’m so sorry for your loss, grief is not an easy process and I’ve found that it comes and goes, sometimes it doesn’t take much to make it unbearable.

    Also most four years ago, I lost my daughter to breast cancer. She was 50 years old.

    These are some of the things I’ve done to help that has made the grief easier…


    Speak with gratitude of your Mom’s life.

    Learn more about the problem that caused her death.

    Express your grief by being an example for others.

    Become interested in a new hobby or sport.
    Keep your hands busy, for me painting helped me cope.

    Write a letter to your Mom,expressing your grief.

    Build a memorial.

    Honor your creative Spirit.

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