I have simply been unable to write about this workshop (which took place on April 28) until now. I think I am still processing the experience, but I'm going to try to write about it since I can't seem to blog about anything else until I do!
I believe it was a very successful workshop, that we achieved what we set out to do: to create a daylong experience in expressive arts and show how one can use them in confronting loss. We were able to offer sessions in music, drawing, collage, journaling, guided imagery and movement. We created a beautiful exhibit of art in a variety of media from several people, all of which had the themes of loss, bereavement, healing.
Here are more pictures of part of the exhibit:
For me personally, it was exhausting and profound. I worked on the art exhibit with two other women, co-facilitated the drawing workshop with Cathie Laska, and did part of the opening presentation. For my part in that, I created a talk which incorporated several of the poems I wrote in the first months after Patrick died, many of which I first posted here. I also spent several days going through my drawings and fiber pieces in order to choose some for the exhibit, and then I had to do the practical figuring out of how to present them which included writing up a card on each piece.
It was an extraordinary and difficult experience to revisit the art I created during that intense, deeply painful period in order to share it through the workshop. I found myself becoming filled again with powerful, awful feelings and my emotional skin was delicate as tissue paper and tears flowed at the slightest provocation and I began to say, 'Patrick is Rome' because, quite literally, all thoughts led to thoughts of him. I began to worry that I might be opening myself too much, becoming too vulnerable.
When the day came, I was excited and hopeful. I'm not sure I can describe what it was like to look out at the audience during my talk and to see people sobbing. I knew that it was the resonance of my losses with their own and I felt part of something big and mysterious that connects us all. And that was just the first half hour of the day!
Cathie Laska and I called our workshop Drawing Through Loss: Telling Your Story in Line and Color
. I did two small pieces during the session, on 4 X 6 blank index cards:
By lunch (a delicious one provided by Market Bella Rossa), my responsibilities were finished and it was time for me to be part of the workshop only as a participant. The expressive movement exercise was so beautiful and powerful, I wound up weeping, the tears coming from the deepest places. It was time. The exercise had all of us in a big circle. Silently and to music, we each created a movement, gestures to express something about our loss. Alone, we faced the group and performed our movement. Then we turned to the person to our left and did it again, this time with that person mirroring our movement. Then that person did their movement, turned and was mirrored by their neighbor and so on, around the circle. It was like watching a wave go through the group. No one was hesitant or seemed self-conscious, and once again that sensation of being connected to all was present.
My movement was a very stylized guitar-playing with head-banging. It so happened that my mirroring partner was Kathy Steinstra. She's the president of the Board of the Maple Center and headed the planning committee for this workshop. But most importantly, she was one of the first people I called when Patrick died and the person who organized the healing ritual for me and Patrick's roommates. So, it made the exercise even more powerful for me.
After that, I spent the afternoon in a collage workshop, choosing to work with images I found to be spiritually nourishing. The two hours went quickly. I had a very calm time, cutting, pasting, listening to a swirl of conversation around me as others worked on their collages. There was a great deal of laughter and a sense of community in the room. We probably could have stayed longer.
Here's my collage, called Universal Repair, replete with symbols and totems that are meaningful to me -- turtle, Stonehenge, spirals, sun, moon, stars...words and phrases: whole, ageless magic, enduring spirit, earth, community creativity...
For me, the end result was the satisfaction of sharing my journey with others, of sharing things that may prove helpful to others on this same painful path. I went home utterly and totally exhausted - in mind, body, spirit. But it was a good exhaustion.
And days later, I discovered that I had received a great gift, a serendipitous effect which I had not suspected I might receive: days in which I felt a deep peace and, for the first time since Patrick's death I experienced true moments of joy. Joy, allowed to come through, unmitigated by my grief and sorrow. I am so grateful for those ineffable, incomparable moments when the light is just so or the wind dances on my skin and, for a nanosecond, a sense of 'all is well' permeates my being....
Oh, I've cried and felt despair again, too...but it seems like my experience has created a doorway to finding a deeper sense of calm and acceptance at times.
People at the workshop asked for a copy of my talk and the poems, so I created a pdf to make available to them. Here's a link to that:Making Things of Broken Things
And here's a link to the handout I created for our drawing workshop:Drawing Through Loss
You might find it useful if you, like me, aren't experienced with drawing and would like to use it for healing work.
During the time leading up to the workshop, my friend Cheri sent me tulips:
Thank you, Cheri!!
Labels: expressive arts therapy, grief, Patrick, poetry