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How a Daily Art Practice (Art Journaling) Can Help Us Cope with Grief and Loss and Move Onto Healing

I'll start with my story. I hope that you can relate to something in my story.


Over the weekend I learned that my grandma, Grams, was moved into an assisted living facility and has been cognitively declining since August 2021. My family situation, like many, is an odd one because all families have their quirks. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown didn't leave my family untouched. For me, it impacted my sense of time within the world. 2020 and 2021 seem smushed. Sometimes I feel like it's 2019 and we are just coming into 2022, and I struggle to figure out what happened to the two years in between. I feel like the world is just coming alive again and I struggle to figure out what happened to two years of my life.


I see this reflection on my own family. In 2020, my mother stopped speaking to me. COVID-19 affected her because she lost her job during that time, and she hasn't been the same person since lockdown. She's working again, but our relationship changed, and I can't pinpoint why. I contact her via text and try to stay in touch, but I get no response from her. Instead, she sends me puzzle books and a card in the mail and signs it "Mom". Before the pandemic, the signature read "Love, Mom". Now it reads "Mom". As for my father, it's been years since I spoke with him.


My Grams, my father's mother, has always had a strange relationship with me, my mother, and my father. The best word to use would be estranged. I struggle to use this word even though I know it to be the most accurate word for my family. I know I'm not alone or unique in this, even though I feel that I am. Every family is unique as to what makes them tick.


The last time I spoke with Grams was in anger in August 2019. She called me 20 times in one day determined to send me a box of family photos. Before that, she'd been trying to get me to pick up a set of dishes. Often times these were things I felt should've gone to me my father and not me. Because of the estranged relationship between my father and his mother, I wound up in the middle of the two of them as a child and into adulthood. I never realized how stressful this was for me until I wrote my memoir and worked my way through "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I came to so many realizations by doing that program. It's had a profound impact on highlighting things I hadn't seen before in my life and my relationship with my grandmother and how she made me feel, often shameful about myself and my family, were always at the top of her list.


An example: Grams is religious and I am not. One Thanksgiving evening after our meal, she told me that didn't think she'd see me or my husband in heaven and that we needed to accept the Lord. I turned to my husband to ask, "Is she implying we are going to hell?". I can laugh about this, but this moment still causes me pain because it's the perfect example of things that caused my relationship with her to change. The stranger she started to act, the more I distanced myself from her to protect my mental health and my emotions. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I find that I often protect my mental health so that I don't rock the boat and go into a downward depressive hole that is a struggle to climb out of.



I pulled back on my relationship with Grams in 2019 to protect myself. In the process of doing so, and then the years with the pandemic, two years have passed and I realized it'd been a "little" while since I'd heard from her. Grams continued to send me greeting cards during this time and she would call me and wish me a happy birthday or anniversary. In August 2021, I turned 40 and I didn't hear anything from her and didn't receive a car which felt odd. I didn't hear from her at Christmas and I pushed it aside thinking it was nothing. My 10th anniversary was in April 2022, and I didn't receive a call or card, and I wondered if something was wrong. She called me last April to wish me a Happy Anniversary. I knew the sacrament of marriage was important to her and she always wished me a happy anniversary, until she didn't.


I was curious as to what had happened. I called her and there was no answer. I started looking for an obituary to see if one had been published, and I couldn't find anything. I went to the assessor's site to search for her address, and I found that her real property had been sold, and I had no clue where she was for a day and a half last week. Her property was sold in February 2022. The real estate listing photos showed most of her furniture had been moved out with few exceptions. So, where was she? I found a power of attorney that had been recorded with the deed on her home. Her property had always been held in trust, so it wasn't a surprise to see a POA as her successor trustee that signed the deed. Not being told felt like the weird part. Public record searching as a profession for over a decade does have its uses if you're trying to find someone.


I contacted my father for the first time in years to find out if he knew anything about what happened, and he didn't know either.


I contacted one of Gram's closest friends to see if she knew what had happened to my grandmother. Her friend Karen called me back and told me that my grandmother had been mentally declining with dementia, and in August 2021 she was declared mentally incompetent, there'd been a hearing and my Grams had been moved to an assisted living facility. Karen was one of my Grams POAs, something I'd known about for years. I knew that my family had been removed from anything legally to do with my Gram's health should anything happen to her. I remember the day she told me and I asked her if I could have Karen's phone number so I could contact her if something did happen to my Grams. I never thought I would be searching my phone for Karen's phone number a decade-plus later. However, I was grateful I had her phone number.

So, now I knew what happened. The timing made sense. Grams was admitted into assisted living after she'd gone to a hospital and couldn't figure out how to get home. She called her friend Karen for directions, and it turns out that Grams was really at a McDonald's, not a hospital, and had no idea how to get home.


While on the phone with Karen, she gave me the guilt trip I knew was coming. Guilt for my family's estrangement from my grandmother despite the relationship we had with her and amongst ourselves. I asked Karen if she'd told my family, and she said no. I asked her if she'd had any intention of telling them and she said no. When I asked why not, she said, "You said it yourself, your family is estranged." I didn't know what to say, and as usual, I kept my mouth shut because nothing witty or sarcastic came to mind because I was processing the fact that my Grams was mentally gone.


This is all to say, that this weekend I spent feeling so much grief and loss. I told my father what'd happened. It turns out my father had located his mother without the help of her friend. He told me he'd called her and that Grams didn't remember him and didn't know who she was herself. He gave me her contact information and where she was and who to call for more information.

Realizing that the woman who had POA had no intention of telling Grams' immediate family that she'd been declining mentally and had moved into a new place was hard to deal with. It caused anger in the grieving process I'm going through right now and will continue to cope with.

While I can't escape the feelings that come with grief, I can try to keep tabs on my mental health. One of the things I learned in 2015 when I was admitted to the mental hospital is how art as a form of therapy can people cope with difficult emotions, like the emotions I'm dealing with right now


It's ironic how the Art Journal Challenge March 2022 I ran for my site turned into something that I would need in April 2022. Doing that challenge helped me develop the habit of having a daily art practice. It helped supplement my journal practice which has changed from writing in a physical journal to typing up my thoughts in Apple Notes to now video journaling which I find to be the most powerful. I recently discovered a passion for making videos. Before I started posting on YouTube, I made several video journals as a way to document how I was feeling when I left my corporate job in August 2021.


Loss and grief are hard feelings to deal with. Add in shame for how I'd acted and someone reminding me of the estrangement and weirdness of my family along with the fact that they had no plans to keep us informed and, in a way, tried to take away our right to know what is going on and our right to grieve just because of our situation and what remains is a big bag filled with hard emotions to wade through and process.


In addition to dealing with the grief and loss of my Grams knowing that she's not there anymore, there's also resentment towards her friend who I don't believe is acting in her best interest as regards letting the family know. Family, no matter how estranged, at least should have the right to know and be allowed the right to grieve in their way. I know my Grams would've wanted us to know what was going on. She always reached out to her family despite how bad or icky things were with us. That was one of my favorite things about her: she always had the bravery to reach out no matter how painful the family situation was. Something that I struggle with: is the courage to reach out to someone, like my father, who has deeply hurt me in the past. It's easier for me to shield myself from the pain of talking to him. My Grams had a similar relationship, but she continued to reach out which makes me know that she wouldn't have wanted her friend to keep this information from us.


Now that I know what's going on, I've been grieving the loss of my Grams, knowing that there's nothing I can do to change what happened between us in addition to processing the shock and surprise of what happened to this woman who'd always been an independent, brave person. I turned to things like working on puzzles, watching TV, and also art journaling this weekend to help me in those moments where I was processing what was going on and also the moments where I needed something to do to take my mind off of what was going on. I found myself in moments where I was crying, moments where I was experiencing blame and anger, and other moments where I felt mentally exhausted. The most powerful thing I found was journaling: writing and typing my thoughts out, video journaling helped me verbally process what was happening, and also art journaling to help me visually express my emotions on the page through images. In this article, I'm going to focus on art journaling and how it's been helping me cope with my grief and loss so I don't lose myself in the process of this painful situation

How art journaling can be a powerful tool for coping with grief and loss


Art journaling can be a powerful tool for coping with grief and loss. It can provide a space for someone to express their emotions, connect with others who are going through similar experiences, and find support and understanding. Art journaling can also be a way to process difficult emotions and to find creative ways to express oneself. It can be a way to connect with grief in a non-verbal way and to find ways of moving through the grief process.


When art journaling, there are no rules and no wrong way of doing it. It's a space for you to express yourself in whatever way you need to. You can use words, images, colors, and anything else that you feel drawn to. The important thing is that you're allowing yourself the space to express your emotions, and process what you're going through.


There are many different ways to approach art journaling. You can choose to do it every day, or only when you're feeling particularly overwhelmed by your emotions. You can do it alone, or with others who are also grieving. You can use it as a way to process your thoughts and feelings, or as a way to create something beautiful. There is no wrong way to do it, and no right way either. You can do it in whatever way works best for you.


If you're not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources available online and in bookstores. Many grief support groups offer art journaling as a way to cope with loss.


Some tips for starting an art journal and taking care of yourself while you grieve:

  1. Find a journal that feels right for you. It can be any size, shape, or type of notebook. You can even use a blank piece of paper if you prefer.

  2. Choose the medium you want to use. You can use pencils, pens, markers, paint, a collage, or anything else you like.

  3. Start with one page, and see where it takes you. There is no pressure to fill the whole journal.

  4. Be gentle with yourself. This is a space for you to express your emotions, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

  5. Allow yourself to be creative. This is not a time for perfectionism.

  6. Seek out support if you need it. Many grief support groups offer art journaling as a way to cope with loss.

  7. Take care of yourself while you're grieving. Make sure to eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.

  8. Give yourself time to grieve. There is no timeline for grief, and you will move through it at your own pace.

Art journaling is just one of many ways to cope with grief and loss. If you're struggling, reach out for help from a therapist, counselor, or support group. Grief is a process, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Allow yourself the space to express your emotions, and to find the coping mechanisms that work best for you.


One example I have is I art journaled a quote from my Grams favorite song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". I used watercolor paint and brushes to create a stippled rainbow on the page and hand-lettered a line from the song. When I got to the end of the page, I signed and dated my work so that I would be able to look back at this time when I was grieving and be able to remember my Grams, and recollect what I was going through and feeling during this time.


Once I was done, I stopped and cried and my husband was there to hold me as I cried and he cried with me. I'll always remember this moment in time and the art journal page will help me recall all of the moments and the love I have for my Grams as I grieve her loss. My brain will want to move on from the feelings of grief and loss to protect me, but the art journal page will be a reminder of how I was feeling and the support and connection of the people who are around me who love me and support me in my time of need and loss.


Developing a daily art journal practice, and how it can help you process your emotions around grief and loss


Developing a daily art practice can be as simple as spending 5 minutes a day or less doodling on a piece of paper or a napkin. It doesn't have to be fancy. If you want to get a bit more advanced, perhaps buy a small sketchbook where you can keep all of your doodles or drawings in one place. Make this the place you go to when you feel anxiety or sadness creeping in. Make the notebook or sketchbook the place you go when you start to notice the feelings of grief or loss creeping in.

Realize that it doesn't matter what you create. It can be whatever you want it to be. You don't have to share this with anyone. You don't have to put it on Facebook or share it with anyone. It can just be for you.


Know that an art journal, if you are sharing it online, is not about being in an art contest. I struggle with this because I didn't start as an artist or art journalist when I started doing daily art journaling. I was a perfectionistic dancer who wanted to create these perfect pieces of art every day during the art journal challenge I ran on social media in March 2022. I realized I may not have the energy to make perfect pieces of art every day, and I realize I'll have to accept that I might not have the energy to work for several focused hours at a time on creating the perfect piece. I'm laughing as I write this because this is something I struggle with: competing with myself to be perfect. How can I be the best __(fill-in-the-blank)__? I ask myself this all of the time. Right now, asking myself, "How can I be the most efficient griever?" is not going to be helpful, yet it's the first place I go in my mind. I want to do it perfectly. I want to grieve in the most efficient way possible so that I can move on quickly and get back to my life. But that's not how grief works. Grief doesn't have a timeline. We can't schedule when we are going to grieve.


The goal of grief is not to "get over it" as quickly as possible, but rather to allow ourselves to feel the pain and the loss, and eventually find a way to incorporate the loss into our lives in a new way.


Grief is a process, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Allow yourself the space to express your emotions, and to find the coping mechanisms that work best for you, like I am for me.

Art journaling is a powerful tool for coping with difficult emotions and can be a way for people to express what they're feeling when words don't come easily. Daily art practice can help us to process our emotions, and to find creative ways to express ourselves. It can also be a way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences and to find support and understanding.


Art journaling as a therapy for coping with grief and loss


If you're not familiar with art journaling, it's simply a way of using art and words to express your thoughts and feelings. You can use any medium you like, from painting and drawing, to collage and mixed media. There are no rules, so you can make it as simple or as complex as you like.

You might want to start by creating a page for each day, each week, or even each month. The frequency is up to you. You might want to set aside some time each day, or each week, to work on your pages. Or you might prefer to spend an hour or two on a weekend day working on several pages at once. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this. Find what works for you.


One of the great things about art journaling is that it can be done anywhere, at any time. You don't need a lot of supplies, or even a lot of space. You can do it on the go, or at home, in your bedroom, living room, or at the kitchen table.


You might want to start with a simple notebook and some pens or pencils.


Art journaling is a powerful tool for coping with difficult emotions and can be a way for people to express what they're feeling when words don't come easily. Daily art practice can help us to process our emotions, and to find creative ways to express ourselves. It can also be a way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences and to find support and understanding.


What is grief art?


Grief art is any type of art that helps you express your emotions related to grief and loss. It can be abstract or representational. It can be sad, angry, joyful, or anything in between. There are no rules about what grief art should look like. It's whatever you need it to be in the moment.


Creating grief art can be a way to process your emotions and to find creative ways to express yourself. It can also be a way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences and to find support and understanding.


Why create grief art?


Art is a powerful tool for coping with difficult emotions and can be a way for people to express what they're feeling when words don't come easily.


How to develop a creative process for non-artists to create art


If you're not used to working with art materials, it can be helpful to start with some simple supplies and a few basic techniques. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Start with a simple notebook and a pen or pencil. You can also use crayons, markers, or any other type of art supplies you have on hand.

  • Find a quiet place to work where you won't be interrupted. You might want to set a timer for a specific amount of time, or just work until you feel like you're finished.

  • Don't worry about whether or not your art is "good." There are no rules about what grief art should look like. The important thing is that you're expressing your emotions and taking the time to process your grief.

  • If you're not sure what to do, start by making some simple marks on the page. You can try drawing lines, squiggles, or shapes. Or you might want to write down some of your thoughts and feelings. Just let your hand move across the page and see what happens.

  • Once you've started making marks on the page, see if you can notice any patterns or shapes that emerge. You might want to try to intentionally create these patterns or shapes, or you might just let them happen naturally.

If you get stuck, don't worry! There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just keep working and see what happens.


How will art journaling and grief art help me in my healing process?


Art journaling and grief art can help you in your healing process by providing a creative outlet for your emotions. It can be a way to express what you're feeling when words don't come easily.

Creating art can also be a way to distract yourself from your pain, and focus on something positive. It can be a way to remember the good times and to hold onto hope for the future.


Ultimately, it can be a powerful tool for coping with grief and loss, and for moving on to healing.

Art therapy is scientifically proven to be an effective way to cope with grief and loss. A study published in the journal "Art Therapy: Research and Practice" found that art therapy can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can improve overall well-being.


What matters most is that you find a creative outlet that works for you. So if you're feeling stuck in your grief, consider giving art journaling or grief art a try. It just might be the healing tool you need.


How will I know how to identify when the healing process has started to arise?


The healing process is different for everyone. Some people might start to feel better right away, while others might not notice any changes for some time.


There are no hard and fast rules about how to know when the healing process has started. But in general, you might start to notice some of the following signs:


  1. You're starting to feel more like yourself again.

  2. You're beginning to find joy in things that you used to enjoy.

  3. You're starting to think about the future with hope instead of fear.

  4. You're able to talk about your loved one without feeling overwhelmed by sadness.

If you're not sure whether or not you're healing, it can be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you assess how you're doing, and can offer guidance and support.


No matter how you're feeling, know that it's normal to grieve after a loss. And with time, patience, and self-care, you will eventually begin to heal.


Are there any similarities between the healing process and the artistic process?


The healing process and the artistic process are both unique to the individual. But there are some similarities between the two. Both involve going through difficult emotions, and both require time and patience.


In both cases, it's important to be gentle with yourself and to allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling. It's also important to find an outlet for your emotions, whether that's through art, writing, talking to friends, or anything else that feels helpful.


And finally, both the healing process and the artistic process can be messy. There is no right or wrong way to do either one. Just keep working and see what happens.


How can I tell stories that remind me of the person I miss or who has died to reflect on the memories we shared on an art journal page?


There are many ways to tell stories through art. You might want to try writing, drawing, painting, or collaging.


You can also use photographs, quotes, or song lyrics to tell your story. The important thing is to find a way to express yourself that feels comfortable and natural.


If you're not sure where to start, you might want to try thinking about some of your favorite memories with the person you miss. What made those moments special? What did you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel?


Another idea is to write a letter to the person you miss. You can say anything you want in this letter – there are no rules. Just let your emotions flow onto the page.


All about Memento Mori


Let's discuss Momento Mori.


What is Memento Mori?


Memento Mori is a Latin phrase that means "Remember that you will die." It's a reminder to live in the present moment and to make the most of our time on Earth.

Memento Mori has been used for centuries as a way to cope with death and loss. It's a way to remember that life is finite and that we should cherish every moment.


Memento Mori can also be a powerful tool for healing after a loss. It can help us to focus on the good memories we have of our loved ones, and to find hope for the future.


How can I use Memento Mori in my art journaling practice?


There are many ways to incorporate Memento Mori into your art journaling practice. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Write down your thoughts and feelings about death and loss. What does Memento Mori mean to you?

  2. Use Memento Mori as a reminder to live in the present moment. What are you grateful for today? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

  3. Use Memento Mori as a way to honor your loved ones who have died. Write down your favorite memories of them, or create a tribute page in your journal.

Remember that the goal of Memento Mori is not to dwell on death, but to use it as a reminder to live life to the fullest. So find a way to make Memento Mori meaningful for you, and use it as a tool to help you heal and grow.



Should I ask my family and friends to participate in art journaling with me?


It's up to you whether or not you want to ask your family and friends to participate in art journaling with you. If you think it would be helpful, go for it!


If you're not sure, you could start by asking a few close friends or family members if they'd be interested. You might also want to look for an online community of journalers that you can connect with.


No matter what you decide, know that there is no right or wrong way to journal. You can do it however you like, and there is no wrong way to do it.


The most important thing is to find a way to express yourself that feels comfortable and natural for you.


How will doing things like drawing and painting help me find meaning in my life at a time of mourning?


The process of creating art can be therapeutic. It can help us to express our emotions, and to find creative ways to cope with difficult situations.



Art journaling is one type of therapy that can be helpful for people who are grieving. It can be a way to process our thoughts and feelings and to find meaning in our lives at a time of mourning.

Drawing and painting can also be a way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. When we share our stories, we can find support and understanding.


And finally, the act of creating art can be a reminder that there is beauty in the world – even during tough times. This can help us to find hope and inspiration as we move forward on our journey of grief and loss.


Conclusion:


Grief and loss can be difficult experiences that leave us feeling overwhelmed and isolated. However, art is a powerful tool for coping with these emotions and can help us to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. A daily art practice can be a way for us to process our emotions, find hope and inspiration, and move on to healing. If you're interested in exploring this further, please reach out for support. You don't have to be an artist or creative to keep an art journal as a private place to figure out your emotions. One day you'll wake up and the fears and feelings you explored on the art journal page will help you work your way to healing and you'll feel wonder and light in your life again. Make sure you give yourself the gift of time to allow yourself to process your grief so that you can move on when you're ready, which is something so many people don't do: take the time to deal with their grief so that they can move on to happiness and start to explore their new life and reality as they move on.

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