A gentle warning before you read this. This was supposed to be a celebration article, but things happened that led me in a different direction. You might find it sad.
Stick with me because there is a message here that you might need. Maybe not now, but someday. And I promise that there is a happy ending.
Thank you in advance for allowing me to share this story with you.
15 Years of Art Biz Success
This week I celebrate 15 years of writing a weekly email to artists, which I mark as the anniversary of Art Biz Success. The newsletter is now posted here on the blog where you're reading it.
It was on March 25, 2002 that I sent my first private email as a sample to artists I found on the Internet.
I remember the reply from one person: “How did you find me?!” She thought it was a little creepy that I found her online – as if her website were supposed to be a secret.
I don’t know of anyone who was sending a weekly newsletter to artists at the time. Many artists appreciated it because it was exciting to get email about the art business and feel connected.
Those were the days! Now we don’t need more email. We don’t want more email.
This is one of the many reasons why I’m extraordinarily grateful that you invite me into your inbox each week.
You’re busy, and now there are many other business tips out there for artists. I don’t take your trust for granted.
I can’t promise this newsletter and corresponding blog post will go on forever. I can’t even promise they will happen next week. But I’m pretty proud that I have never missed a weekly issue. That’s 780 newsletters if you’re counting.
I take this seriously.
I fired my first virtual assistant because she didn’t get my newsletter out on time. By golly, I promise it on this day and it should be delivered on this day!
This week’s newsletter – the very one you’re reading now on the blog – was a close call. Here's what happened.
You Have Something To Say
My delightful father-in-law passed last weekend. He wasn’t well, but it wasn’t imminent. His passing capped off a week in which I said goodbye to my sweet kitty, Dharma, and – I can’t make this up – had my first car wreck in recent memory.
If bad things happen in threes, circumstances can only get better, right?
[ Listen to: Making Art While Grieving Loss with Jan Heaton }
You surely wouldn’t blame me if I skipped my weekly missive, and I am not writing this to prove a point or to maintain a perfect record.
I’m writing in the middle of this turmoil because I have something to say.
I watch many of my clients deal with illnesses and deaths of loved ones. Several in the last few weeks alone.
We need to know that it’s okay to grieve. Everyone deals and heals at his or her own pace. Take as much time as you need, and don’t let anyone tell you how to mourn.
Me? I needed to work this week. I’m processing these major life events by writing about them.
I wrote in my journal about the joy I got from both Dharma and John. It was important to do so before it was too late – before I forgot why they took up such a big space in my heart.
You might need to make art to process loss. The art might be about your loss, but it might be about something else entirely.
In an undergraduate painting class, I started a canvas about a scene that I wanted to remember with my older cousin. He had just been killed in a private plane crash.
The painting, in a word, sucked. Come critique time my wise professor said that it might be too soon. I was probably too close to what had happened.
Life Happens, But The Daffodils Will Still Be Here
Life happens while you are busy making other plans. – John Lennon
Life happens, and the world moves on. But, man!, it has changed. It’s a different world than it was before your loss.
It feels like a crueler world – until you accept the generosity of those around you. Posting a photo and small story of Dharma on Facebook helped with my healing. I was home alone while my husband was away with his sick father, so I soaked in the kindness of my friends and “friends.”
Knock social media all you want, but feeling this love was such a comfort.
It might also seem like a darker world. Until you open the door and walk onto your front porch immediately after your beloved furry friend dies and – I can’t make this up, either – witness the first daffodil of spring open right before your eyes.
If you have a story about processing grief, tips for those who are grieving, or would just like a warm-and-fuzzy virtual hug, please leave a comment.
189 thoughts on “Processing Loss Through Your Art”
The love and kindness in our soul is so clear — even as you grieve and take care of you. You are a gift to us all. Let us know how we might help you grieve. We want to know your story. Bonds grow stronger and the world grows a little brighter every time we share.
You’re THE BEST, Bob. Thanks for being here!
I’m so sorry for your loss of family and fur baby, and very glad you are physically OK after the car crash :-/
Three negatives make for a large future positive right?
You are so absolutely right! Writing an eulogy about my dog passing last fall and posting it on FB helped me tremendously in grieving for my lost girl. Adopting the foster dog a few weeks later also helped me in ways I had no idea would be relevant.
Josephine: Yes! I have two other cats that I’m so grateful for.
very moving post. very sorry for you loss and thanks for sharing this… my best thoughts
Thank you, Laurence.
Dear Alyson My father always says those we love are immortal through our memory of them. I am sorry for your pain.
Dear Alyson, Sending you a hug as you move through the loss of both of your beloved family members. Thank You for sharing your story and your wisdom with us.
Thank you, Laura.
Thank you for sharing your light with us Alyson.
Xoxo. Love you, Alicia!
Oh Alyson, what a week you’ve had. I’m so sorry for the losses you’ve experienced.
I’d like to respond to this:
That painting has so much value – process can be as important, if not more important than product. I wish that you had been able to have that experience outside of a critique environment. Art isn’t always about hanging something on a wall.
Elissa: It’s okay. I am not sure I could have lived with it or claimed it. I still have the memory that created it.
Much heart-felt love to you Alyson, as you grieve and surrender to your feelings. You are wise to continue to explore the ways that aid the process. Thank you for your open-hearted sharing.
Being creative has helped me through a lot of things so it’s something I always do. I may not journal, but I paint, draw and do a gazillion crafts.
I don’t have much advice, and I don’t need a hug right now. But I want to say that I’m very sorry for your loss and give you a big virtual hug. I’ve lost both people and pets before, both to accidents and disease so I have some idea of how it feels.
Thank you, Linda.
This is such a needed subject about how we all deal with loss differently. So sorry for your losses and the accident. Yes, things must look up for you now, because that was the “dreaded” comes in threes! A couple of years ago, I had to deal with a loss of my Mom’s closest brother. I just could not go to the hospital to sit with the rest of the family while he was hooked up and not expected to recover. I spent the whole day painting flowers that I had purchased “bunches” just the day before because they were at a rock-bottom must-go sale price… so I had purchased about four or five bunches. Someone knew I would need them, right! That painting was my way of talking to my lost Uncle because he loved my paintings, and was one of my biggest patrons. I was then able to join the family (Mom was one of 10 children) the next day at the hospital to remember him by telling and listening to wonderful stories! Hugs to you and anyone else reading this post that needs one!
That sounds lovely, Marsha.
I am so sorry for your losses this past week. I am at just over 5 months since my husband died unexpectedly, a month before he would have turned 50, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Years, and in February we would have celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. And while the grief is still very raw some days, I have begun to come out of the fog and have begun to create again. I miss Randy each and every moment of every day, but life continues, and I am grateful for those who surround me, encouraging me, loving me in the midst of grief, letting me find my different life (I hate saying my new life-nothing about this feels as fresh and hopeful as the word ‘new’ implies), different than the future that Randy and I had planned. I am blessed despite the circumstances, and that is what I focus on. I have a project in mind to create in the coming months to honor the love Randy and I shared, and I am excited to begin. And that gives me hope and a little bit of peace and comfort. Thank you for your letter today. Anna
Bless your heart, Anna. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I am so sorry for your losses, Alyson. I am in a bereavement group that continues to help me immensely. We help each other. Grief has its own time, different for each of us. In my case I am learning that I need to accept the worst days on their own terms but continue to strive on the good days.
I can’t seem to make art in my studio, but the living room is ok. The bigger pieces I want to create are presently out of my reach, so I’m working on smaller ones. I am doing more and less at the same time, but progress is there and I think I am building success synapses.
I found that I need to seperate my grief and my art right now. Later, my loss will inform my work. But now, as your teacher said, I’m still too close.
Your family is in my thoughts.
Patricia: So happy you found a way to make small pieces – and to find a better place to do it in.
Alyson, I was touched by your post and eloquent words. Sending warm thoughts your way as you grieve these losses.
Thank you, Laurie.
As Kahlil Gibran stated “We cry for that which has been our joy.” Upon someone’s death we realize that we hurt only as much as we loved. The greater the love, the deeper the loss. The first time I realized how much my art friends were really my family was when I heard that one of them had been killed on his way to an outdoor show. The previous weekend we had been neighbors at an event. He was not among my closest friends, but the shock of his death at so young shook me to the core, made me see how fleeting our life can be. I cried for a full two days while standing at the easel.
I experienced the loss of a 23 year old cockatiel this summer, and I still hear her when I walk in the door sometimes. They become part of you like nothing else, and we can only be thankful for the love they gave us while here for a short time. I am so sorry for your losses.
This is beautiful, Mary. Thank you.
I am so sorry for your losses Alyson. Thank you for sharing your story. And a huge thank you for sending these valuable newsletters – I always look forward to reading them. Your dedication to producing one every week is commendable and quite an inspiration for others!
I’m sorry for your loss, Alyson.
Thank you for being here for everyone, during the good times, and the not so joyful ones.
Take care ❤️
Dear Alyson: You are one of the strongest women I know. I am sad for your loss but know that you have already found out how to learn from it. Social media does bring us a whole new circle of friends, I love that. I have always been a firm believer in the healing properties of what we do. Art heals. I am with my daughter and her family right now. She is starting clinical trial treatment for a stage four cancer recurrence. Originally she was diagnosed when she was 23 weeks pregnant with my grandson who is now seven. She is also an entrepreneur and savy businesswoman. She amazes me every day. Besides helping her I am also working on art production for two new businesses she is opening next month….50 pieces of framed art of all sizes. During this difficult time I have been painting water, mandalas, anything….they all help. We are all in this together. Please keep writing, you are an inspiration. Love, Jan
Jan: Oh, my. My heart is with you! You are painting for her right now – for her healing. Sending love your way.
Alyson, I’m sending you a big cyber-hug right now. I’m so sorry for you losses, all you’ve been going through, and especially all at once!
I can certainly relate to your post. I haven’t touched my paints in a month, as someone very near and dear to me nearly died and I’ve had to take the time to process it all, cope with the “what if’s” (as in “what if I hadn’t been there that day and noticed the problem…”), as well as help with care, but I got them to the hospital in time, their prognosis is excellent and I have much to be thankful for. I haven’t push myself to be productive during this time, although I will admit to wondering on occasion if my interest in art would even come back – what a scary feeling that is! I’ve been taking a lot of long walks and working in the garden, as the first signs of Spring bring joy to my heart. I’m glad to say my energy and interest in art has been coming back these last few days. This morning, my first action of the day was to clean off my palette. Symbolic as well as practical. Interesting that my second action of the day was to check your blog and find this timely post!
Be good to yourself during this time, and don’t forget to celebrate your Art Biz Coach anniversary! I only discovered Art Biz Coach 7 years ago, but what a difference it has made for me!
Gabrielle: I think it’s time to pick up the paints – for your friend. S/he would want that for you – no?
Thank you for writing this and sharing your story, you never know who you might touch. As I sit here 10 days after the death of my father and attempt to reengage, it’s very timely and powerful for me. I’m looking forward to some private quiet time this weekend to begin some new artwork that I’m sure will always have extra meaning for myself. I’m a believer in signs… we should always keep an eye out for the daffodils.
Oh, Leslie. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending prayers and daffodils your way.
Hi from Oklahoma, Alyson. So sorry for your losses. They are both rough losses.
This post is timely for me, as my husband is terminally ill. I am trying to learn as much as I can about dealing with grief. I know that I cannot really “prepare” for the reality of it all, but I would love to use my art to stay healthy, as I process all the feelings. I believe art and gratitude will be my go-to support system. When we first found out, I did a 30 day “Love Story” in daily pen & ink drawings, detailing all the things I was grateful for in my husband. It helped me a lot. I paint lots of fun and loving cards for him, too. He cherishes every one. One day at a time. That’s all we can do.
Beth: Thank you for sharing your experience. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. xoxo back to Oklahoma.
I am so sorry to hear of your recent losses. My heart goes out to you.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences through this difficukt time and for acknowledging that we all process grief in very personal and different ways. I hope you find comfort and healing through family, friends and the beautiful art community you’ve built.
Wishing you peace and joy in your memories.
You have had quite a week. I am impressed with your process: writing, sharing, and being present in all that has happened this week. You help us tremendously with our art, and today, you help us with living in general. Thank you for your amazing self. I am so sorry for your losses and scary accident this week. I smile every time your precious email hits my inbox… and I am not a fan of email in general. As for my process, I was going to my studio to carve a piece about losing a friend or family member for a show that I had going up. My cell phone rang and I found out a dear friend of mine died suddenly of the flu. 54 years old and otherwise healthy. She was one of my rocks. I decided to carve anyway since I was so dumbfounded. I cried through the entire process, but I also thought about how it is so true that people who are a part of your life make a permanent change in who you are and that never changes, even when they die. They have effected who you are so they are forever part of you. That was the theory behind my piece – and I found it immensely helpful as I carved that truth that day. All the many memories came flooding back and I cried and laughed as the realization sunk in that she will forever be with me. May the many memories and goodness from your furry family and your father-in-law bless you forever.
Eve: I’m so sorry for your loss. What a lovely way to honor your friend.
Thank you for sharing. I’m truly sorry for your losses.
Your message is timely because I have recently been exploring grief. In the last month I lost a dear and important human friend. Then my wife and I had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to our kitty.
Your message is part of the healing process for me and for all of us. Your story also brings more tears – which is more healing.
I’ll be keeping you and your family in my thoughts.
Jay: I’m sorry you had to experience the loss of your dear friend and kitty. Hugs to you and your wife.
Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your losses. It does help to journal. I now journal every morning, and it has made such a difference in my life. I will keep you and family in my thoughts and prayers.
I lost my father a couple of months ago and for a while I just rested and did day to day stuff. I couldn’t find the energy to enter my studio. A few weeks ago I began teaching and painting again and it definitely helped my attitude and renewed me. Art does help in the healing process.
Hi Alyson – I am sorry for your losses and I hope you are okay after the car accident. But there are lessons in all that happens to us. The biggest one I found was what an honor it was to know the person or pet who passed. They were in my life and not everyone could say that. So glad they picked me.
Congrats on 15 years as the Art Biz Coach. I found you while coaching a couple of artists and one came in one day carrying your book, “I’d Rather be in the Studio.” We all ended up getting our own copies and we used it in our coaching sessions. Thanks for doing so much for us. Update: My Little Love Letters: A Peaceful Revolution cards have passed 36,000 cards given out around the world and I am getting ready to launch my A Peaceful Revolution Greeting Cards soon. So heal and may the memories bring you peace in time.
Elizabeth: Congratulations on the huge success of Little Love Letters! What blessings you are sending around the world.
First let me say that I am very sorry for your loss Alyson. Our loved ones are so important to our lives, whether they are immediate family, in-laws, our friends, and yes, even our furry companions and other pets. Having lost my mom and dad in the last 6 years was been very hard to process and still has a hurtful spot in my heart when I cannot call them to say hello and chat about what is happening in our lives.
My wife has been suffering from COPD the last 5 years and added to that, fibrillation and type 2 diabetes brought on by the meds she is taking as well as a major arthritis flareup has been hard on us both, and my desire to create new works of art had failed too.
Yesterday as I was walking into our dining room I looked to the chair where my wife sits for her daily breathing treatments, all of a sudden I had a terrible sense of loss as my imagination took me to a time when she may not be sitting in that chair anymore and be absent from my life. I had such an acute awareness of loss that it made me cherish all the more her being with me still.
Now that I realize how valuable our time together is, I can appreciate the fact that it was she who had inspired me to create art 45 years ago and can be re-inspired to create anew.
Peter: This makes me so sad. What a poignant moment. It’s so obvious that you two have complemented each other so well over the decades.
Alyson, grief is a personal thing. We process…or not process…the pain differently. I have had my share of losses…my father at age 18…my marriage…my sons for years to drugs…one of my three sisters, my stepfather…my mother on Christmas Eve 2003… my eldest sister…my voice damaged after surgery for thyroid cancer…and the subsequent health issues since. My art has given my a way to express myself…not expressing the pain but the joy that comes when I remember that my Jesus and my Heavenly Father know my every pain…collecting my tears in His hands and storing them in bottles. I see rainbows, sunrises, sunsets…and here the sounds of waves on the shore…birds singing there tiny hearts out. My God is good and He whispers to me softly…as He whispered to you with one tiny bloom. God bless you Alyson.
Jane: I’m so happy that you have had your faith to hold you up through such trying times.
Empathy: Feeling another person’s pain in your own heart. So sorry for your losses. Time and unforeseen events befall us all. This month marked the anniversary of my Mother’s passing away along with tragedies among friends and family. A friend lost her daughter in a motorcycle accident this month and we just learned a nephew of my wife has been diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer.
If our lives were a book we come to different chapters. Chapters close, but the story hasn’t ended. I’ll share this excerpt from my own blog article titled “A Chapter Closed,” after my Mother passed away: ” I recall a time when I was quite young walking along with my Mother. My feet and legs were starting to hurt and I began to protest and wanted to stop and not go any further even though there wasn’t much more distance to travel. She used an illustration to help keep me going. She had me look down the street to a stop sign and told me to imagine that on the other side was the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. The ones she had taught me about. She asked; do you think you can make it that far? I said yes, and so it happened. Such was her way of teaching and in way part of her legacy. I still get sore feet and legs, but I haven’t forgotten those words and I still try to look past the stop signs.”
This is beautiful, William. Thank you for sharing.
this was truly beautiful. Your wife is a lucky woman. What a love you must have for one another.
Prayers to you and your family. Out of loss come new beginnings that help the soul to heal.
Had loss of family, but cats passing was even harder, still grow catnip in my garden to remind me of their purrs and unconditional love.
Breath enjoy the daffodils and the spring warmth.
My very sincere condolences. Your newsletter opened up a pot of tears that has been simmering for weeks. Thank you. Time to reenter the studio. I’ve been sidetracked by a new job and the losses.
Been packing up the studio to move but I’ll find a spot to work at. I have lots to say and lots of tears to shed.
Xoxo xoxo xoxo
Alyson, I read your post twice– and sending you a huge virtual hug. Your decision to share touches everyone I’m sure, as we all go through life, we all go through those doors of grief, loss and frustration. We send you the outstretched hand of compassion with its strength. Aren’t we so blessed as artists we have concrete ways to process? Your writing is definitely yours– heart straight to word, for me– heart directly to brush. The deeper my anguish unconsciously the pinker my paintings.
Sending you much love, angels of strength and compassion to surround you. The really big tough angels ????????????????????????????????❤️Linda
I appreciate this more than you know, Linda.
Thank you Alyson for sharing your heart with us. I know it is hard and I hope your grieving is comforted by all the friends you have here. You are dearly loved and we all want you to know that. Hugs
I send you HUGS and warm gratitude for sharing your story of loss. Loss is something we all experience and ART is clearly a healing therapeutic way to process it. I believe we are all connected whether we know it or not. Our digital devices are showing us the way to be aware of our connectedness!!! Thank you Alyson.
Alyson, what a week you’ve had! So sorry for your losses! This post couldn’t be more timely, as my landlady had to put her dog down a week ago today. He and I spent a lot of time together and his loss is acutely felt. Don’t think it’s time yet to express this yet but will do something arty in the near future.
Oh, Carol, I’m so sorry.
Hi Alyson. I was touched by your words. Loss puts us in touch with parts of ourselves we don’t always see. When a family member leaves, it can seem so odd that the rest of the world is still carrying on as usual. And our animal family members – we clearly see what a gift they have been to us and it feels like a big hole in the heart to be without them. I think you’ve said two of the most important things about grief: 1) Take as much time as you need, and 2) Don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve. It’s a truly personal process and one that we must honor in order to heal. Making art is indeed a lovely way to give yourself the space to do that. You’re in my thoughts.
Thank you, Paula. You’re right: so odd that the world moves on. But then there are the signs that everything is as it should be – like the daffodil.
My condolences for your losses. Virtual (((hugs))) all around. I’ve tried to ‘process’ grief (as well as other emotional shifts) in my art and while it was cathartic, confusing, and not meant for public consumption, it’s a part of the healing. I find writing helps best even tho I’m a visual artist. We have to do what we have to do. I feel honored that you shared with us. Blessings for brighter days and peaceful healing to you and your family.
Oh, Alyson, thank you for your newsletter. My sincere condolences for your losses. Most of my artwork in the past two years and going has been about loss and grief, as I deal with my Mum’s increasing Alzheimer’s. She does not, and will never, know that I do this work. It has become such an essential part of my life, I can’t imagine not having art as a way to process my thoughts, feelings and memories.
Clare: I can’t imagine what you’re going through – watching your mother slip away right before your eyes. I’m so happy you have your art to lean on.
I’m so sorry to read that you’ve gone through this. But on this subject I must speak of healing.
Just before my mother died from a long illness, she bought everyone in the family a book by Anne Kaiser Stearns, named Living Through Personal Crisis. She had seen Stearns interviewed on TV. Soon Mother passed. After a while I needed SOMETHING and began to read the book. It was all I needed to find the steps and strength to heal. I’ve bought and given away SO many copies of that book. The notion that creating art or any other project, crazy-sounding or not, is essential.
I couldn’t have had a better ma. She was with me, being a mother, even after she was gone. It was as if she was reading the book to me.
Michael: Thank you for sharing this resource with us. I am sure it will help many of us.
So sorry for your losses Alyson. Sending you positive thoughts as you move forward. My story is after a major life loss, I couldn’t paint for a year – and then what came out was quite different. HUGs
Alyson, I’ve been following you for quite some time. First, let me say: I come to your blog often for tips, insight and wisdom on how to navigate my Art biz. For me, you are a trusted source precisely because you come from the days when the Internet and Social media wasn’t so prevalent in the Art world. You are an exceptional coach in my humble opinion! So, for you to be vulnerable and share your heart with me creates a new level of trust. I’m holding your heart during this tender, transformative time. My personal motto is this: “A broken wing doesn’t mean you can’t fly.” It’s an excerpt from a poem I wrote many years ago. But it keeps me afloat when I need to be reminded. Love and Blessings! ❤️
Thank you, VersAnnette. This means so much to me.
Alyson, lots of love to you and your family!
I’m so glad you wrote this post–loss and our grief around those losses are an important part of life, and something I’d love to see spoken about more openly. As far as processing grief through our art, yes, absolutely! That’s a big part of why I write, and trying to understand/process/consciously grieve the death of my parents is what led me to write my memoir, The Secret Life of Grief.
Here’s a link in case it’s helpful for anyone:
Sending you a big hug and lots of love!
Thank you for sharing this, Tajna. I’m so happy to see your name here.
My condolences on your losses, but congratulations on your wisdom in the way in which you are dealing with them. Our writing, music, art are conduits to our deeper feelings and also serve to vent them.
I turn first to my brushes and paper when I am heart-sore. Pictures are our first language and more immediate, at least for me. After I have processed my hurt visually, I can then put them in words and sometimes a poem will result. Painting and writing are both conversations with ourselves that turn into conversations with others if you put it out there (as you did) for all to see. This engenders self-reflection, feelings of not being so alone, and not so much a lessening of the pain, but an integration of it.
P: Beautifully said. I love “heart-sore.”
I’m so sorry for your loss, Alyson. It’s so hard to lose those we love. I know I definitely process grief through art. Creating wraps its arms around me and hugs every time I pick up a project. Sending you a hug and blessings.
I am so sorry about the losses and glad that you are ok. Thanks for sending the newsletter during this difficult week. My thoughts are with you!
Dear Alyson, My heart is with you! Thank you for all the years staying connected with us, and for all your wisdom.
There is a star in the sky. A bright beautiful star. I have not named the star and I do not know if it has a name….nor do I care. Every night I look up at the sky and I see this star. The star is where Georgy Girl, Neby, Blackberry, Shadowfax, Kima, Micky Rose Brown, Sam, Grayham, Ginger, Cricket and Peppermint Pumpkin have gone. The star is so bright because so many beautiful souls reside there. They are all in my heart forever but when I see this star I get a warm fuzzy feeling that they are happy and doing well.
Oh, Marla. How perfectly wonderful! I love the visual.
So sorry for all the loss and hardship you have had recently. Thank you for all that you do for us, and for sharing this particular story.
You are right. We all experience loss and grief in different ways, and we would benefit from accepting that while helping others.
I have lost many who have meant so much in my life. Several years ago, after finding out about the death of a friend at the age of 47, I was moved to read a book that he had given to me decades earlier. When I read a particular passage about looking up into tree canopies, I realized that I hadn’t taken the time to do that since I was a child. It seemed like a message from my friend, and I began a series of paintings looking at trees from below. My love affair with painting trees was born. I still feel as if that was a gift from my friend.
Sending healing thoughts to you and your family at this tough time.
Lynn: Wow! I love that gift from your friend.
I was pulled to read your blog today… Yes, way to many emails….but I’m saving them all for when I have a moment, cause I know their value. Connection being what draws me in, my heart twinged reading your opening line. Oh god so sorry for all your loss <3 sharing to the world of your pain and sorrow will fill the hole that it makes with LOVE <3 lts been an intensly rough year, and its just started! It really just feels so surreal! As artists that's where we can let all the darkness out into the light.. For me it came out like a flood! It has continued to come and has gone from such dark confusion to colorful hope of brighter days.. I have not produced this much work in years…marvelling at that fact alone, I booked a showing! Believe me, the voice in my head was wondering .. What was I thinking!!This stuff is raw! Its ugly. It hurts. It is me in all my painful vulnerability! I have felt fear rushes like crazy when I let the thought sink in that I am going to put this work out there in my community. I believe it is part of my grieving process..loss transmuted into abundance..pain into beauty, sorrow into love~ The experience of loss, like you said, when you open up to it and allow the comfort from others to hold your hand through it, and let it all out, you are enriched by it. <3
Christina: Beautifully said. Cheering for you and your show – and healing.
Sending you hugs and prayers! I have noticed that life events of loss tend to cluster together. Then suddenly we experience many experiences of heightened awareness of love and beauty. Just like the daffodils that came into your view, just when you needed them! You have the self-awareness to take care of yourself in response. I love the work that you do. Peace to you and your family as you deal with these significant losses. ❤️
It seems like you have been part of my life, my link to validating my creative self, since forever. I just checked olde emails and though cannot find any since you began starting The Art Biz Coach, since 2006 your support has given so much valued continued strength–in spite of my being a ‘hanger-on’, not myself as a mainstream producing artist–now, in particular, my heart goes out to you.
Since 2002 my work has been with rural Filipino children, introducing them to art, literature, their own creativity, while doggedly hanging on to my own. My husband (22years older) died after 34 years of deeply rewarding marriage, and left me in a foreign country built aboard the sailboat for a home/way of life. I do still love where and how I live (aboard since 1984-here in the Philippines since 1999) but am, still, essentially, alone in more ways than one.
My grieving process has been long and confusing but your connection has been a large part of the healing process. This is what is important to tell you:
You give so very much of yourself, Alyson…so now, so much love is being returned, as you deserve to reap.
I bless and and am eternally grateful for all you have given to me during my own dark hours when I have had nothing to return to you. In those hours, art has healed my soul, piece by piece.
Art is the answer to healing all our wounds and celebrating our humanity.
Please pass on my sincere condolences to your beloved husband in his grief, also. Love is Love, equally precious where ever life form we find or pour ourselves into.
sincerely, much love,
Diane: I cry as I read this. You give me a great deal in return just by being here and reading this. Thank you so much for being here with me all of these years.
We don’t have to do this alone.
When my Aunt and cousin passed away, they were like the family rock of the family because they were always there. I started a painting in pastel to express my grief with the intention of burying the picture with them. But strange things happened as other family members viewed the paintings other members also opened up to recall the better times. needless to say the paintings are hanging on the wall of the son-in- law. They brought comfort to many.
What a special gift, Dema.
I am so sorry for your losses. Nurture yourself gently in this time. Thank you for sharing your grief. We lost our gal Luna late in 2015. I am creating in prose and paintings who she’s been with us. Often it is painful and and cathartic even joyful. She was a white shepherd. Our loved ones will remain alive by sharing our beloved memories of them. Blessings to you in this sad time.
I am sorry to hear of your father-in-law’s passing and the events that followed. It is true that things usually happen in three’s. So things should settle down a bit for you. Take time for you and your family. I truly understand
The last few months have been extremely stressful and busy for me. Life comes to us in gentle waves as well as tumultuous ones. It builds our strengths and helps us to be more pliable and resilient.
So take care and grow in understanding. Accept and grieve until the beauty seeps in through the fog.
My heart feels your pain, Alyson, and I’m so sorry. I hope I can share this little story… we lost our big Goldendoodle, Charlie, two months ago. While we knew he had Canine Lymphoma, it had been in complete remission – until very suddenly it wasn’t. We have always had kids and dogs, and lots of love for all of them; in no way am I comparing losing kids and dogs – but losing this big boy devastated me. Then, not a week had passed, and we were kneeling at the Communion rail at church, in prayer – and suddenly beside me, kissing my cheek and putting her paws on the rail was a lovely big service dog, who had left her master’s side – something she would never do. At first I was laughing and horrified at myself – laughing (to myself) at the Communion rail! Then it quickly became tears; it really was a God thing. The owner was appalled; the congregation, most of whom know us, was almost as touched as we were. It really made a difference, that little moment…and thanks, Alyson, for all you do and who you are.
What a beautiful story, Helen! Yes, it was, indeed, a God thing. We have another cat, Tofu, who has given us signs from Dharma. So strangely comforting.
Our cats are our kids, so they’re equal in my book.
I ❤ you
Also I am sorry for your losses. I noticed a long time ago that they come in threes: losses, appliance breakdowns, accidents – not necessarily three of the same thing, but three things that are difficult.
I am sorry for your losses. There are those times in life where the challenges just keep coming! Four years ago, I taught a workshop the week after my daughter died. Friends who came to the funeral from out of town helped me to prep for the workshop. If I worked in a full time corporate job, I would have had to be back to work at that time, so why should it be any different if I am self employed? I’ve tried to do art around the subject of my daughter’s death but have not been able to. I wrote about her here” http://blog.jacquelinesullivan.com/blog/page/3/
Grieving is unique to each person. When my parents passed three years apart, I enjoyed looking at their photos, hearing and telling stories about them. I couldn’t get anything done in the studio. I hope you take whatever time you need.
I am sorry for the loss of your dear father-in-law and your beloved Dharma.
Sharing your experience through words, creating art, talks with friends and family, walks outdoors… all can be ways to be kind to yourself as you work through the grief.
In the moments when you feel that the sadness will never end, gently remind yourself there is ebb and flow. As there is with creativity — which you so ably coach us through.
I wish the best to you and yours as you heal from your losses.
Good Morning Alyson,
My heart is grieving with you, yes, let yourself take as much time as you need. Grief is a journey, sometimes long and sometimes shorter. You have a wise grasp of where you are and what you need to do, blessings upon you and your family.
Karen Leso Hegglin
I’m so sorry for your losses, Alyson, and I admire your determination to reach out for support from those of us who you’ve helped so much. Death of loved ones is just about the toughest thing we’re called upon to bear and we all deal with it in different ways.
When my beloved cat died you’d have thought i lost a child. One thing that helped was collecting the best photos I had of him and making a little Blurb book to memorialize him. I dealt with some of the grief over a family members alcoholism by journaling about it, then shredding the journal pages and making a set of unbound collaged pages into a book. Art heals. Looking at beautiful art can provide solace and making art can provide a way to get the emotions out.
We are so blessed to be artists!
Jo: I’ve thought about a Blurb book. I might have one in me.
My condolences and appreciation for the wonderful work you do. Thank you and bless you!
Sending prayers for you and for your husband as you go through the process of letting go. May many fond memories help to fill the empty places in your hearts. As others have said, be sure to take care of you in whatever way helps you get through the days.
My sister passed away as a result of a devastating, wretched, rare disease the day after Christmas this past December and I know how very emotional one becomes when you lose someone very dear. It took me a couple or so months to feel creative again after much, much time feeling sad. Part of my time grieving involved putting off some projects I knew I should have worked on, but just couldn’t bring myself to begin ~ one being something I didn’t feel very confident to undertake. Unfortunately, that client was not very understanding and she became angry and belligerent, telling me I was being very unprofessional. After much thought – and a few more tears – over the situation, I thanked her for her past kindness, told her I doubted that our paths would cross again and wished her all the best. It was after I sent that message that I realized a great weight had been lifted from me. Some clients are very demanding and needy, and at this time, my own emotional state and healing were most important. Right or wrong, I lost a client, but perhaps gained a little more confidence in knowing that I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every request – I don’t have to be a ‘pleaser’; that saying ‘no, thank you’ is okay and is better to do sooner, rather than later. So, while you find comfort in writing and carrying on, please know that ‘no, thank you, not right now…’ is an option if you need to step back.
I’ve been one of your followers from almost the very beginning of your Art Biz journey and feel protective of you although we’ve only met once and talked on the phone a few times…
Take care, dear Alyson.
Deb: Thank you for being here for so long.
As for the difficult client … they’re never worth it. You will replace her with someone better!
You have to say what happened to the community you have built, we do feel for you. And it echoes, I was poking around on the computer about to go visit my Dad who has advancing Parkinson’s. It’s been like an ongoing loss for 10 years which began on the tail of losing my little sister and my own breast cancer in which I lost my breasts and pre-menopausal hormone life. Art has been the constant and as people, relationships, years have been lost my art has gained and bloomed and crystalized.
Your article made me think, When I visit my Dad, I am going to see what I can do to help him process. He can still talk and has a beautiful turn of phrase and riches of the heart. Ultimately we all lose our self as we know it. It’s so clear to me now. The art need not be directly “about” the loss to help us. It helps us because it’s fun to do and it’s ours.
Sending a hug, Kate.
right back at you and thanks again. we all enjoy your realness, it’s doing a lot of good in the world. Artists feel deeply and that includes gratitude.
My condolences on your losses. Loss is always a shock, even when it’s expected. You have to do what feel right for you at the time. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, just your way.
Art can help immensely. I made the mistake of stopping creating art after my father died. I was 17 and in the middle of A levels (Final school exams). I was doing my art and had struggled with the preparatory work while he was ill. It all seemed so futile. I failed the exam and didn’t try anything for about 4 1/5 years, by then I was “rusty” and lacked the motivation, so my efforts were sporadic and consequently I never felt they were any good. 23 years later, I was struggling with working, young family and a special needs diagnosis on my son. I quit the work I was doing with the intention of returning when things were more settled at home. In that time I started drawing again and realised what a mistake I’d made giving up earlier. Creating art helped me to process all the emotions. It also helped me to face the emotions.
My mother-in-law died beginning of February. I still haven’t processed it.
You are brave to say this. We all benefit. I am deepened to read and feel the deep truth of your life that you share unflinchingly. Thank you, AS. I will create a little more bravely today as a result.
I love that, Martha: “I will create a little more bravely today” Oh, it makes my heart sing! Thank you.
Greif and Loss
Grief and loss are part of me
Creative companions who have come with a fee
They take me down to a kind of numbness
Confusion and anger and eventually kindness
Compassion and forgiveness are the keys
But you can’t arrive at that without sailing the seas
Leaving home at the age of twelve
Losing more family than books on the shelf
Making new friends in a strange new place
Losing more family and forced to save face
Leaving there too and lost for a long time
Distractions a wanting working hard for a dime
Climbing out of this despair by doing the work
Curling in sometimes because it really hurts
Finding no one who could possibly understand
Looking and not finding a concrete plan
Breathing and thinking and getting clear
Writing and painting about what I hold dear
Finding the ladder out of the neurological grand canyon
Finding my way with myself as companion
It comes and goes this grief and loss
Here with me now but no longer the boss
It’s a new day and a new way to think
Time for some warm coffee my favorite morning drink.
Wow, Margaret. I had no idea. Thank you for sharing your story of personal loss.
I am so sorry for your losses. May the warmth and beauty of spring comfort and heal you.
When my father died I created a whole series of clay sculpture about our relationship which had been difficult. I was a single mom at the time and teaching 24/7 at a boarding school. My studio was in a dark basement. I would go down there and cry while I was working on the art. It helped a lot to turn my sorrow into something visible.
Now with this daunting challenge of ovarian cancer making art has been almost impossible. It’s been as if there was no creative energy left for me because all of my energy was consumed by the disease. Oddly I was much more worried about my complete lack of creativity than about the cancer. Finally in the last three weeks I’ve been able to paint some. It feels like renewal. And according to my last CAT scan a week ago there is no residual disease.
But a HUGE sustaining aspect of the healing process has been the support I have received online. Even if all someone did was click ‘like’ on Facebook it was a connection and acknowledgment. A hug across the cyber world. I’m so grateful.
And if things come in threes which I also pay attention to, then I’m done! In the last two years I’ve had three major surgeries. Both shoulders and the cancer. So now I can get on with the rest of my life!!!
Sending you love, strength and healing as you cope with your sadness.
Hugs to you,
Liza: You’re so incredibly amazing. I know what you’ve been going through, and that you took the time to reach out and care for someone else is … as I said … amazing. And exactly like the Liza I know and love.
I am so looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks. Xoxo
Everyone says “I’m sorry” I’m sorry Im sorry…what really does that mean?
Is it just lip service to an event?…so I’m NOT sorry , I’m gratetful that we can all learn from your story and those of other and here is mine.
I lost my brother in law a few weeks ago and my sister who was 10 yrs younger than him, always knew he would go before her. She did NOT grieve, cry, feel bad etc etc. she was relieved, she needed to fly , laugh and be happy that he went without more suffering and thus started her new life right away. I”m sure that after 30 yrs of happy togetherness, tried might sneak its way into her life but for now I found much inspiration in her attitude to grab life and move on…it was a relief to me not to have to “feel sorry” but enjoy things with her, have fun with her and keep on living….part of that might be to do some watercoloring together soon, who knows, she might inspire me again…
Colette: How nice for your sister – that she found her own path.
I’m so sorry for your losses. Several years ago I had both parents, best friend, favorite aunt and uncle all die with 18 months. Working was the only thing I could do to feel better. And, yes, the art I did about it was too soon and will not be for sale, but it helped me to process the losses.
Hugs. <3 You speak to us so directly. |Even at this time of loss your words are falling on open ears. You are helping others to make it through. <3
Thank you, Mary.
Alyson, I’m so sorry about your family’s losses this week. Your post is so timely. Our children’s pastor and also a musician on our church’s worship team, was killed in a fluke, one-car rollover accident on Monday. He was 29, a husband and father of two very young children…a great young man taken before his time. I teach art on Wednesday nights to these same kids who just lost their pastor and friend. They were devastated, too and I really didn’t know how I would handle the class so soon after his death. We made multi-color handprints on several large papers which we will give as a tribute to our church and gifts to the family, but it was our conversations that were so rich and hopefully, cathartic. I had an impulse to ask them to share about their favorite memory of him and if given another opportunity to say one more thing to him, what would that be? One 4th-grader replied, “I will carry you in my heart forever.” We shared laughter and tears and I let them know it was okay to grieve and safe to cry. Wow, they blessed my socks off.
Love “they blessed my socks off,” Kate!
I’m so sorry for the loss of your loved ones! I couldn’t believe the topic you chose this week, because my own father passed away two days ago! Not unexpected, but heartbreaking nonetheless. Thank you for those words of hope and the reminder that it’s ok to get through these days in my own way. Hugs to you!!!
Oh Alyson, I’m so sorry! Why do these losses have to pile on in a short period of time??
Most people, specifically older adults, have experienced a lot of loss in their lives. Death of parents, in-laws, many beloved pets. The loss of my left breast to cancer; the loss of love several times. I am so very very grateful that all of my siblings are still living, and none of us has experienced the loss of a child.
My father died when I was in college; he was 48. I was the oldest child and a Daddy’s girl, but it was complicated and we had unfinished business. His death was extremely hard for me and my grieving lasted a couple of years. My mother was 68, which I used to think was pretty old, but not anymore! We didn’t have unfinished business…the worst part was I just missed her so damn much everyday, and still do…it was 20 years this month. We mark these anniversaries.
What I have learned is that every loss makes us stronger, and presumably better equipped to handle the next. It is so so sad, but yes, there are daffodils still; parents die but new generations of babies are born. Not so easy to be philosophical when it happens!
My art has been one of the few constants in my life. Change is guaranteed…people and pets die; you have to leave and move on from homes, friends, lovers, jobs and places; you get older and feel like the same person inside but can no longer recognize your own body. I’ve been making art the whole time, sometimes expressly to deal with loss, like portraits I have done of both of my parents, but mostly not. My art tells the story of my journey and leaves tangible proof that I was here on earth.
Big cyber-hug for you Alyson! It gets easier.
Alyson, I am so thankful for the gift of your emails, in my mailbox. They are focused, challenging and nurture in me the joy and excitement of discovering and being the artist I am born to be. I was truly saddened to hear of your recent losses… As much as grief is a part of life, it is still difficult to process and accept loss. I just lost my Mom in November. What a hole she left in my heart and all who knew her. My Mom was my cheer leader and inspired so much of my venturing into the unknown with my art. It was a long hard road of illness for her and we cared for her at home until we went to live in hospice with her. We hardly left her side as she waited to wake in the awaiting arms of her Lord and King. There were many times we wanted to ask “why?” and Mom would say, “Trials will either make us bitter or better.” She fought her illness so bravely. I will miss her terribly. We need the tears to water our inner garden of gratefulness. When life gets hard, we ache for what’s real and embrace, remember and see anew that which we do have. Gratefulness then grows and takes over our garden making it virtually impossible for us to miss the gift of a Daffodil opening before our very eyes. Thank you for sharing that story! Anyway…back to the painting before me. 🙂
I totally get it. I’ve always used creating art – either painting or writing – to process grief of different types, recent or distant. It helps you move on and pushes your art forward too.
My most popular art print and card I sell most often is from artwork I made to honor the loss of my Dad. It reminds me each time how fragile life is and how sometimes art or a quote can say what we cannot say in that moment. I am incredibly sorry for your loss of both your family members. Xo
Keep a green tree in your heart and the singing bird will come. Author unknown.
Dear Alyson, I’ve been taking your courses and reading your newsletters for many years now, we’ve never actually met, but you feel like an old friend. I feel for you, the passing of your kitty, and your father in law, and your car! and love that you noticed the Daffodil.
I have one story to share. I had a week of sadness about 4 years ago, my most beloved horse passed on, and then a few days later my most beloved kitty. The horse, Illustrate, Illy for short had been with me from her first breath to her last, 27 years. I’m a trained Hospice worker, but this week was almost more than I could bare. I was standing in front of her grave, the dirt newly turned over, (horses graves are huge) and a loud but nice inner voice said to me, “Let’s see if we can make something out of this.” So I looked up, and noticed there were many large rounded rocks that were now scattered around, I got a rake, and began sculpting the ground, and used the rocks to out line the image of a running horse, larger than life sized. It took about an hour, but instead of a messy site, I now had something to see that made me happy. When visitors came by, it helped lift them up as well.
Lots of Love -p
Virtual hugs. We have all been where you are – and words often do not take the right shape. Journaling is an excellent tool, and mnemonic device. Know you are buoyed up by us all – near and far.
Condolences and hugs on your loss. Being a parent to many furry creatures over the years, I get how much that loss hurts. You never forget them and always love them.
Cardinals. They always show up just when I least expect them and most need them.
My heart goes out to you for the loss of your father-in-law and Dharma – both were family. It takes time to heal and as time goes on the memories become intermittent. Yet they can be devastating when they appear. It just takes time.
My Mom was a gardener all her life. When she moved from the last house she told everyone to take all the plants that we wanted because they would be ripped out anyway. I filled up the bed of my truck, to overflowing, six times and my five other siblings did the same.
In her last few weeks – it was March, and she kept asking “are the daffodils blooming yet?”
She passed early in the morning. When I stepped out my door I noticed that the daffodils had opened that morning!
I was doing 30 paintings in 30 days that month. I painted the daffodil and titled the painting “This One’s for Mom.” It will remain on my wall.
I am sorry to hear of your loss. One cannot time such happenings and losses in ones life…… and one just has to allow oneself to feel the pain and accept the situation that you don’t have any control on. I have had my share of losses- of a child, parents and a very loving husband……..each and every time my journal and my art has helped me to release my emotions and immerse myself in another world.
May you have the strength to bear the losses and May your father- in -law’s soul Rest In Peace.
Loss on top of loss, and then a car accident! BTW, are you physically okay from the accident? I don’t see anyone asking about that.
In 2003, we lost my Mother-in-law, then my mother exactly a month apart. Two months later, we had to “put down” our cat after a long illness which we tried in vain to control with medication. The second day of the month, which was when all these happened, became a day to dread. But the days when you can barely get going, or spend time crying, gradually get fewer, and the memories of your loved ones become something to smile about rather than shed tears over. It takes time. Right now, work helps you cope, but grief can be weird. After a couple of months, it may cease to be effective, and you may need to take some time off. No shame in that. Do what you need to when you need to. Don’t let anyone tell you when you should be “over it,” because we all grieve in different ways, and at different rates.
Thank you for your post.
I am a sound artist (aka musician, specifically a professional flutist), so not the typical audience for the blog, yet I find many of the posts can be transferred to my work in the professional music world.
In September 2015, I miscarried my second child, Robert Jerome, at 18 weeks and 1 day. Pouring myself into projects has kept me sane in the year and a half since RJ’s passing. In May, I will be recording an album of music that has been my particular expression of the emotions I have experienced around the loss of my son. It has been an incredibly powerful, healing process.
Alyson, may the new season of Spring wrap her arms around you and comfort.
I’m sorry you’ve had a week that gives you such sorrow. I love, however, that the little beauties of life can still catch your attention. That seems to be the way I’ve lived my life too – so that a chickadee’s song can lift a mood.
I retired from 50 years of office work at the end of December and settled myself to enjoying painting. That May, our oldest son was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer, and he died last September. I had started selling prints and paintings at our largest local farmers market, and my son said,the day before he died, “Don’t stop going, Mom; you need the distraction.” So I kept right on going.
In January, it must have been delayed stress which literally and figurately caused my intestinal fortitude to fail. I’ve taken three months off, partly to get my physical health back on track, and partly to process his loss. I even stopped painting for two months, but I’m getting back to it, and am feeling better.
Thanks for your posts and the valuable ideas you offer. I really appreciate them.
Barbara Pottie Holmes Art
Thank you for your mails firstly. I really enjoy reading them. We have just moved countries and I feel like I have left my life behind. Thus has derailed my art as I know no one in the USA and have no idea how to get myself out there. Regardless, I wanted to share with you how I fully empathize with loss and you art. My daughter has recently suffered a terrible trauma and I painted the worst painting ever trying to deal with my emotions. Sadly, it’s of tulips which I love, but even my sweet husband says they are ugly…. ! Like you, I think it’s too soon to paint the experience, I’m still too close to the raw rivolting facts.
My heartfelt thoughts for you, your husband and family after the loss of your father-in-law, and your Dharma. How are you from your car accident? I know you may be shaken, but hope you are physically alright.
Alyson, I’ve received your newsletter since 2005? And it was a grounding for me within a reality that was well…My Beloved of 20 years was fighting gallantly an illness that ultimately took her life in 2007. This past week I marked the 10th year of her leaving this dimension. And am completing her portrait for her birthday next month. I could not bear to begin it until now. It does take time for the pain to change enough to look/see again.
Time, I found changes. There is the time/life before and the after time as I had to create new bearings in this life. And the painting? Yes, it has helped me, supported me, creating a space for my tears, and pain.
So, what has helped? In the beginning simply breathing…in…out…and drinking water definitely helped as well as gentle massage from a safe, and gentle massage therapist. Others have said this, and it is saying “no” to anything that feels overwhelming or that you simply do not want to do right now.
Thank you for being who you are to our community, and for reaching out now and letting us know what your going through, sending you a warm hug, Peace to you dear Alyson.
Our condolences to you, Alyson. We lost a very Dear family member a few years back and our silly ol’ lovable cat petunia not long after. They are missed! We know you miss your loved ones as well. John and Mary Prout
I so feel your pain and understand your need to work. My husband went through a series of health issues a while back, some of which were very serious & scary. I needed to work, yet I could not focus enough to work in my typical realism. That was a breakthrough point for me as I ventured into abstraction. I had no preconceived ideas, I just needed to be getting paint on the canvas. I worked until I felt the pieces were visually complete. Then I stepped back and immediately realized what the imagery meant. I was somewhat stunned. This continued for close to a year. Piece after piece, just painted from the gut, yet I could tell you what each image meant AFTER it was complete. It was healing and helped me through a difficult time.
Thank you for sharing, in spite of grief and pain. Blessings and God’s peace be with you. A sad day, indeed. My friend lost her 25 year old daughter today. It’s cruel and cold, but it is. We must believe there’s a better place on the other side.
My daughter lives in Golden. I’ll look you up on one of my visits to your darling town.
Sending love and comfort to all who grieve. While my husband was in the hospital battling cancer in November, our 42-year-old son died, leaving behind a loving wife and 6-year-old son. She sent a photo last night of a drawing the little boy had done at a children’s museum given the prompt “What does bravery look like to you?” He wrote “Living in somebodies <3" and then drew a picture of him and his Mom before a dark slab that he said was "The door to I-don't-know." Both figures were smiling. XOXOXOXOXO
Peace to you and your family as you grieve. My experience is that grieving shuts down my creativity. Took me months to get back into painting after my Mom passed in December 2014. Now I can feel her cheering me on while I create and get serious about the business side of being an artist.
Dear Alyson, Peace and healing to you and your husband and your family. Thank you for sharing your story. I have lost both parents as well as beloved four-leggeds, and I am deeply grateful to share that they visit me in my dreams, so I have a chance to give them a hug. It’s not virtual, it’s real. I am blessed.
This is the perfect occasion to let you know Alyson that you have been an important part of our lives for a good while.
Your influence has been strong and will be durable. You have united many of us artists a in ways that you can’t imagine. I am still in contact with friends I made after signing up to one of your camps on line and also in Colorado.
As I read all all these expressions of love and compassion I realize how important it is that we as artists support each other. I also have been going through difficult times health wise, 10 major surgeries in the last 20 years… at the moment I am learning to live with something I have never heard of before, “Foot Drop” (both feet )which brings major life changes and challenges… finally like you I had to put my loved cat Chloe to sleep a couple of months ago! Life has a way to hinder the goals we set ourselves to achieve, but art is our antidote, the one thing that entices us to keep going.
I am sorry for your losses and the accident Alyson, hopefully time will help you heal from those unfortunate incidents.
Please forgive me dear readers if this writing is not as grammatically correct as I wish as I still working to do a good job at writing in a lenguaje that is not Spanish.
Alyson, I join the many other artists who are sending love and comfort to you, and hope that you find lots of uplifting signs along your way to recovering. I have found that in the most difficult of times, somehow the Universe lets you know you are being supported – whether it’s a white feather in a strange place, or a song on the radio that has special meaning…
I also want to thank you for your dedication to the weekly email which I value immensely, and which has seen me through 3 major losses. Please take extra care of yourself after all these shocks you have had.
And while you honour your grief, keep noticing those “daffodil” moments. They will be there for you.
Grief, is not linear. I believe it comes through us in waves. Sometimes, gentling ebbing, other times it slaps against the shores of our beings. You are never “done” and you are never “over it.” You somehow find your way and gather new touchstones. Be kind and easy with yourself.
Alyson, I recently went through a week where I had to process “layers of grief” along with just regular life. I wrote about it here http://dashboardhula.blogspot.com/ Your letter reminded me once again that we are never alone. That there are people who can sympathize with us, but there are also people who truly understand because they have had similar experiences.
Congratulations on your writing anniversary. You are an inspiration!
Grief is a process, not be rushed, allow yourself the time. Thank you for sharing, and all your posts. My energy goes out to you,
If you live long enough, you’re going to lose someone important to you. My sympathies go out to you and your family. Thanks for sharing your grief with us.
I am so sorry for your loss…I too understand the pain of being there and it is still somewhat fresh in my memory. I lost my dear father last year and it was such a devastating loss. But through it all, I discovered that he had given me so many gifts that are now evident in my current work. I wrote about it in a blog post that helped me through the healing process: http://www.lisacunninghamfineart.com/blog/making-a-house-a-home
Best to you and your husband,
Last week, dear ol’ FB reminded me of the 3rd anniversary of the death of my soul mate cat Olivia. This sent me crying again over her loss.
I send you and your husband hugs and light to see your way through the grief process.
Alyson please accept my deepest sympathy and I need to tell you that all thru my own personal loss this past four weeks you have been the inspiration that kept me going so I could move forward.Your affirmations, your great classes, your sincere care for artists as people- that is letting us know we are human beings who will have life changes- this has been my rock. I am so grateful to you. My life balance has been my work with people and my art. My people connection was abruptly pulled away but because of you I was able to get an even better connection and have hope to regain that life work mix again. I am so sorry for your loss. You gave me strength and I am so grateful. Love, Mary
Alyson, thank you so much for sharing with us- thank you letting us respond- Reading these posts, I feel so privileged to be part of this community. Yes, Roz, let’s all remember the daffodil moments- What a gift that daffodil was to you, Alyson! I hope you plan to do something with it, make paper or use it some way as a remembrance of both Dharma and John. We lost our son, Zach, (by his own hand) a year and a half ago. I have collected all the flowers from his funeral, each blossom as it faded, and this summer I will make paper with them (and with the old yukky T-shirt he liked to wear). I think I should write letters on the paper to family members stating how important they are to me.
My heart goes out to all of you who have written responses confessing that, after losing someone dear to you, you can’t seem to get back to making art. I know! Back in September of 2015 I had agreed to have a show in April of 2016 but after Zach left us a month later I felt like art died, too. I told the folks at the venue that I just couldn’t. They gently encouraged me to make just four pieces and if by February, for a show that was to open April 1st, no less, they would ask someone else to take my place. I am still overwhelmed by that kindness. There was no pressure to produce so I approached my art stuff with no intention of making anything for anyone else to see. I already had two finished for the show so all I really needed was two more. Maybe I could do two more pieces and if not, I was off the hook- but by show opening I had more art than they could fit on the walls. They even let me show my “Second Advent Angel”, a polymer clay sculpture I had poured my grief into during that first Christmas season. Making was more than cathartic for me- it helped me to articulate visually the confusion and turmoil I felt, to define it bit by bit. I called the show, “New Realities”. Nothing sold, which was a relief- I wanted to give them to family members. If you would like to see the most meaningful pieces with my comments I have posted them in my blog: http://www.donabarnett.com/blog Some people have written to me saying they felt a little comforted after their own losses. Maybe it will be a gentle hug for you, too.
We are sorry for your losses, Alyson. We all approach our lives in a way that works for us. Like you, I’ve used work as a way through – after all, the only way out IS through.
Our hearts are with you.
On my dad’s birthday, March 29th, I woke from a dream where I saw him clearly out a window, but when I went to greet him, he wasn’t there. I curled into a ball in the grass and cried in my dream! He died of Alzheimer’s last September, after 5 years or more of struggle. The dream felt like the first time I’d really grieved, as it was such a long downhill battle and relief when he passed. Thanks for sharing your grieving processes and daffodil moments!
Alyson, dealing with loss is a hard, long process. I hope you feel the compassion of the many artists who responded.
I really like the way how you communicate a positive message even at this time.
Thank you very much for your 15 years of continuous commitment and encouragement. Your newsletters are valued in my mailbox since the beginning! I wish you the best!
Alyson. I was referred to your blog by Rob Domaschuk simply as a resource to begin thinking about selling some of my paintings. I read this post as my first contact with you and I am undone. Partly by your post and partly by others response. On Christmas Eve day 2015, my sone died of complications from Cancer. It has been an inordinately difficult process and my reaction now assures me that it is far from over. I am not a prolific painter and have a very controlled style, so the free form expressiveness which I love in others people’s work isn’t available to me. However, your blog and Dona Barnett’s response in particular, I looked again at my paintings since Mark’s death…. a couple of sunsets, (not unusual at such times) one of which he requested, a bleeding lily (perhaps a little trite), a wave about to obliterate the ‘sun’, (I just “corrected” that from son) a series of shells, (which I only later remembered are symbols of birth and rebirth, death and Resurection) and recently, two whales as spirit beings, one a watcher and one a power, as I look at them now, I realize that Watcher has a somehow shocked look and Power, it was pointed out to me, looks very angry. So consciously or not art surfaces our feelings and helps us heal. I did not expect this when I clicked on your blog this morning. Gifts come from the most unexpected sources.
First, Alyson, your commitment and follow-through is so inspirational to me. As someone who is working on getting better at follow through, I thank you.
As for your kitty, I lost my best friend/Golden Retriever my senior year in high school and I still remember that day as one of the saddest for me. And every once in a while, I look at my dog and imagine him old and on his way out and cry. I don’t think it’s so bad to have a reminder that life is short and we need to be present for and find something beautiful in each day.
Alyson, I am sorry to hear about your triple loss in one week. Any one of the three would be hard to bear, but all three at once? And I very much appreciate your blog article and the power of art to work through pain.
I read your emails regularly, and am currently working as an art teacher, but really want to be a full time working artist when life circumstances will permit me to try! I appreciate all the thoughtful wisdom and practical ideas you share with those interested in using their creative passions in life as a job. My husband, Kevin, has been battling Dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s for about 10 years, and is only 64, but I have had to place him into long term care as of last December. I have been grieving all along the way in this journey, and still face losing him in the final season of this disease. I look forward to being able to focus better on painting simply for the enjoyment, comfort, and stress relief I know it holds for me, but I simply can’t go there yet because I have too many other responsibilities at this time. I’m sorry you have had to deal with so much loss all at once, and hope you will grieve well as life continues on. Thanks for your work, and I hope I can actually do a class of yours one of these days! Lani
Alyson, you’ve been there for me when I’ve hit the wall (literally, as you know). My boyfriend was injured that night too. We both just went to a yoga class today and it was not as impossible and painful as it would have been 5 months ago….and I wish I’d known that so much would heal…even as so much remains to heal. Things will get easier, especially for those of us who love daffodils. I painted a few this very week, and I felt unimaginable joy at doing so. Wow, life can be so intense. But it’s the sharing of and appreciation of the gifts that makes it bearable. And you do that so well.
I’m so sorry for your loss Alyson. You are in my heart. ❤
Grief- comes in waves and can swallow you. I read your weekly newsletter. Be kind to yourself and thank you for sharing all that you have over these years. 700+ new letters is an accomplishment and I find them a weekly arrow pointing me forward in what is now starting to look like a plan. I am attempting to find my art path again after 30+ yrs working and raising a family. My condolences to you family and the loss of you cat.
So sorry for your losses and truamas, Alyson. May you heal at the pace that is most appropriate for you. You are definitely loved!
Grief is definitely a deeply personal process. No one handles it the same way. Some don’t handle it at all, until much later, it bursts out of them unintentionally. I too, had 3 losses in 2014. Six months apart, I lost my Father, then my Mother, then my beloved dog….shock after shock after shock is what it felt like. I was in so much emotional pain, I didn’t know what to do with it all. After my Father died, I didn’t paint for about a month (previously almost every day). Then gradually I started again. After my Mother died, it was only a few weeks after we got home from dealing with the estate (took about a month!) I started to paint and felt so much comfort from her, I thought. When cleaning out her belongings, I found 2 paintings she had started many years before. I took them out and finished them for her. I felt so much love around me while doing that! I was still somewhat in shock, very disoriented and could not concentrate except while painting. I never knew what this much pain felt like. Until, that is, my beloved dog Simon passed away unexpectedly, six months after my Mom died. Again, the shock and pain I felt was UN bearable….took me about 3 months to paint again. I painted his portrait. I still grieve, still cry, still get a pain in my heart when I see his grave in the yard. But he visits me in my dreams, and loves me as much in my sleep as he did in life. My parents also visit in my dreams from time to time. Puzzling dreams, just still trying to figure it out, figure them out. So, re-reading this post, I am starting to cry. I guess I’ve said all I can say. Thank you for this blog post. Peace.
5 major in 7 months…I didn’t do art except color preprinted mandelas. Since my mother (event 1) was an artist, I spent alot of time looking at her sketchbooks, finished/unfinished art, supplies, and art journals. I Learned more about her as an artist and person than I knew before.
As many have said, grief is not linear. I handled all that I was responsible for, and assisted others. I thought I was finished- not so.
Sharing your thoughts through writing an article ,is a wonderful way as it reaches out to others and releases at the same time.
Please take time whenever,
Over the coming years to be compassionate with yourself, allowing to create art, or just enjoy that of others. Seek nature as healing and creative source.
Warm thoughts to you. Life can be so tough, rough, and raw…and then there is a daffodil, hope for what can be.
My cats are my furry children, so I greatly sympathize with your loss of your Dharma. I can tell you that when my husband left me, I was so flattened by it that it took about four years for me to come out of the shadow. Yoga helped me, even though I sometimes wept on the mat in yoga class. Loyal friends and family helped me. I am a lettering artist, and I had to keep a roof over my and my cats’ heads, so I had to keep working even when all I wanted to do was curl up in a fetal position and cry, so I would do my lettering, interrupting periodically to wipe away tears that threatened to ruin the work, and then keep on working. It was terribly hard, especially because I always felt that depression short-circuited my creativity, but I had to keep going regardless, and eventually I started to look around and realize that there was still true joy to be found in the world, whatever else might happen.
I think the key is to recognize that we are all different, and our grieving processes will be different, but if it helps us and doesn’t hurt anyone else, whatever form that takes (and however long it takes) is legitimate.
Best wishes to you as you find your way through the process to a place where you have more light.
Sacred Pets Contracts Go on Well Beyond This Lifetime …
Our beloved pets are so much more than just furry little friends. The bond we share with them is deep and profound. Their unconditional love and lack of ego, enables our relationship with them to often run deeper than that of our human loved ones and friends. While we spend countless time caring for their physical needs, they are continually soothing our souls and transmuting the stress of our daily lives.
The “sacred contracts” we have with our beloved pet companions, are some of the most significant relationships we experience in our lives. When we take a closer look at these contracts we can see that in many ways we are each other’s spiritual caretakers. It is said that our pet’s soul has been drawn to us in order to benefit from our level of consciousness. Yet, in truth, we have much to learn from our animal friends. These pets are at times referred to as “familiars”… representing a deep soul connection beyond measure.
Unfortunately through the normal course of life, most of us at some point will experience the loss of our beloved fur babies. And it has been said that the loss of a pet is as significant to the pet owner as … http://wisdomoftheangels.com/2017/03/sacred-pet-contracts-the-connections-go-on-well-beyond-this-lifetime/
Last year I co-curated an exhibit titled, “Images of Grief and Healing” in Cambridge, MA. It was a very successful show and enabled people to discuss how art enables the healing process during a loss. There is a catalog that was created to go with the exhibit and we had a series of workshops and speaker series that went along with the run of the exhibit. If you want to know more about it please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sending you love, energy, and light for your journey, as we remain behind.. and for John and Dharma, as they travel into their new spirit journeys. Sending an Irish blessing to warm welcomes as they arrived Home..
I believe it is hardest on those of us, still incarnated here on the Earth’s plane, as our senses are somewhat more limited, and we live in cultures that do not encourage us to be open to all that is still “undiscovered” and not yet fully understood in our times..
Having experienced loss of cherished ones (as so many people have) my contribution would be to invite people to be open to the isolated goosebumps sensations, and to the unexpected sparks and embers of light that you may see in your periphery, or even directly in front of you.. it may even have color, and movement. In the case of my late grandfather, some 30 yrs ago, we could all smell his Old Spice, as he passed us in the room to stand by his beloved, my grandmother. Unlike perfume, it only lingered in the air for the moment that he was passing us (we being his daughter and grand daughter). It is one way for them to say that they are only an arm’s length distance away from you.. when you are thinking of them.. it is their way to say, I “hear” you, and I’m right here with you!! They are able to affect so many of our senses, if we are open to the connections, I guess!!
I agree with others.. missing them never goes away; it lessens its sensation over time.. I miss the human touch that we had as one human to another, before they passed.. but find some serenity in finding their energy visible in some of my photography, as round energy spheres! (The best time is at dusk, using natural lighting on the camera.)
So big hugs go out to you Alyson, and to your family, in this time.. you are supported emotionally in making your needs for you and your family first!
Best to you,
I know I’m a week late, Alyson, and you wouldn’t be. Deep condolences to you for your loss. Thank you for the work you have done and for generously (and regularly) sharing your knowledge with us. I know many of us could not be where we are today without you. Much gratitude and gentle healing.
Sending warm thoughts of how vulnerablility draws us closer, even with virtual friends. I am sorry for the loss of your father-in-law and of your furry friend.
I suppose I didn’t read this last week because I was in the hospital with a relative having cancer surgery. I am so sorry for your losses. I have written a guest blog on your blog about dealing with loss as a creative person. I feel I was lucky this fall because I painted my mother-in-law’s portrait last spring, and captured her tenderness towards her great, great granddaughter. She died the day
before my husband and I left for Paris for an exhibition I was in in the Louvre in October.
There is no way to sidestep grief, and the loss of your father-in-law and your lovely Dharma must create a daily feeling of loss. I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of voices here sending you love and sympathy. I’m sure it is love that keeps us going, and knowing you were both a loving daughter-in-law and loving cat nurturer can give you comfort, because the love lasts. I believe that.
I’m suspecting that there would be a few people (and among your “listeners” probably very few) that if you were just talking about your kitty Dharma, would be less sympathetic. Yet, it might easily have been the greater loss (though obviously not for you). I lost my best girlfriend Jane cat 4 years ago and I am still grieving.
Oh, Leslie. I’m so sorry. They just burrow deep into our hearts.
I’m so sorry, Alyson,
I have had many losses, and it’s never easy. It helps me to surround myself with caring friends and to immerse myself in my painting. It’s too soon right now, but about a year after my husband and I lost our little Pomeranian, Sugar, we adopted a precious new one from an animal rescue here in Tucson. I think the poor thing had been used in a puppy mill. She has never played with toys.
She has adapted well, and is the most loving little dog!!! It’s something to think about for later.
I need to leave a GREAT BIG VIRTUAL HUG to everyone who wrote such kind comments. I read every one of them.
It’s never easy, but so lovely to feel the love of community. I am so blessed.
a friend of mine writes about grief…………
I just read your article and I am so sorry for your loss. I too am no stranger to loss. I lost my entire family starting in 1996 with my mom who died of liver cancer. From there it just kept happening, My grandmother of heart failure, my husband who suffered so many losses well before his death due to his disease multiple sclerosis, my dad and his wife in a tragic car accident (while in school), and then my mother and father in-law of cancer and a broken heart (also, while in school). I even lost an aid that used to come in to help with my late husband. Lastly, I lost was my dog Kipper in 2014 (while finishing up school). I think I got so used to loss at one point that it did not phase me anymore, but I can say I was tired of grieving. I remember one day thinking that just about everyone that came to my house died with the exception of myself and a couple of other people. It certainly taught me how short of a time we all have here and to never take life for granted. Grief has knocked on my door many times and still to this day comes to greet me at the most unexpected times and places. All one can do is cry, let it out, dust oneself off and go on at one’s own pace, and yes, don’t let anyone tell you how to mourn, or not to mourn.
I am so sorry for your loss. So many things at one time can indeed stress your system. I hope you are able to take some time to breathe and relax and restore yourself. You are very much appreciated by so many. Sending best energies your way.
I am so sorry for your loss,i feel for you.I pray that God will heal your brokenness. I recently loss My Grand Father but not unexpectedly. All we can do is keep our head up and keep moving forward.
Much love this way.Thanks
Thank you for posting this here and sharing your story. I’m not sure which piece was yours if any but id be so interested to see it if you would share.. My dad passed this past Sept 2021 of cancer. we saw it coming but it was sudden all at once too. His wife was cruel and denied him care he needed in his final days and kept him from me. I’ve struggled to keep myself afloat and after the initial desperate grief of losing my father settled in, the reality hit me and I feel as though I’ve been on autopilot every single moment since then. I long to paint. I miss it. I know its how I’ll heal. But I cant bring myself to sit at that desk and feel inspired or want to start. Even though I see the beauty all around me and feel the joy. I just cant process it the same right now? I’m sure time will only help. I feel more ‘myself’ whatevers left of that every day. I know I will paint again, but its been tough with no outlet. I miss my dad. I’m so sorry about your losses and the things that have happened. Thank you for making the world a more beautiful place sharing your story.