Drawing Grief and Loss

My experience using art as a form of therapy and expression for my grief

Personal
Grief in the aftermath of a loss, and how I see it now.
Grief in the aftermath of a loss, and how I see it now.

It was weird using my drawing and coloring pencils to draw grief, because they’re tools I would normally use for fun. Applying them to something traumatic was like soiling their purity. However, as I began to draw, my understanding changed: maybe I could see my drawing as symbolic of reconciling with the past. Some of my pencils were purchased before I experienced the loss, and to me they represent the time before. To use them to depict my grief seems to bring them full circle. 

I thought my initial sketch was pretty simplistic and rudimentary, but as I started coloring things in, the images really spoke to me. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with a wave of sadness for both the past and present.

The picture of my grief immediately following the loss represents me driving away from the hospital. In a way I’m racing away as fast as I can, eyes wide open, gripping the steering wheel. But to where? The colored objects are books, resources, and even new cities I used to try to escape my feelings in my search for solace. I was racing to find information to cure the thing that caused it, as if I could think my way out of pain.  The thing is, I’m still stuck in the hospital like I never left, the wavy lines left and right of my eyes represent the hospital bed. The energy around me, like a barrier keeping me stuck in bed.

The “bed” is reapplied to the present moment. My grief now is me, whole, but black and white, lifeless and still. I’m in purgatory, barely alive floating in a lovely river. In my meditations these past two years, I often envision a deep stream moving rapidly with lush foliage all around. I’m just floating on top, peaceful yet frozen.

I feel self conscious sharing this with you, only because I often don’t feel as if I’m genuinely in a better place right now (in regards to this specific grief). However, in many ways, this is an improvement for me, because it means I can acknowledge that the past was full of frenetic, undirected energy. It was a coping mechanism, a way to process grief by being busy. Letting go, becoming adrift, confronting my own feelings instead of covering them up, was the right thing to do. I just hope in the future I will end up up on a beach.

The wonderful part of sharing these thoughts in a group was seeing the recurring themes and connections between us, even though our traumas are so different. The themes of nature, paths, an environment, a space, all resonated. I saw a lot of transition between one difficult space to another. I didn’t feel so alone in the human experience.


Every week I join this lovely therapy group over Zoom and participate in a thematic exercise. Last week,  as part of our exercise, we were asked to think about a loss we had experienced, and to draw two pictures: one depicting our grief immediately after the loss, and one depicting our grief as we see it today.  As part of the exercise, I learned the difference between ‘grief’ and ‘mourning:’ the former refers to the internal reactions we do to process loss, while the latter is the term for how we show our grief in the real world. I had previously confused these words, and the sentiments they describe. 

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Edited by Kevin Gibbs

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