How to draw grief—creative therapy

Drawing of harbour with three rays from water up to clouds: a sunny ladder, a broken flowery bridge and a solid grey beamladder

A portal of sun rays: is this how to draw grief?

How to draw grief? When my feelings are in a jumble, I benefit from creative therapy: making rough drawings and tiny poems, for my own benefit. I wonder if you’ve tried that. If not, how about it? This practice can do no harm and at worst may distract you for a while.

Bereavement is personal and also a fact

In a public space like a blog, should one even mention a bereavement, involving the peaceful, pain-free, love-surrounded death of an 84-year-old man? Especially in this time of coronavirus tragedies.

This blog is a personal one, but not family-personal. I don’t share anything private about my family. And whatever experience I write about, you might recognise as similar to your experience. I see this as my contribution as a poet, to articulate common human experiences. On this website I hope to encourage or entertain or simply distract you for a moment, as you cope with the multiple challenges of this global pandemic.

The biggest feelings can be captured in the smallest number of words. A poem, as I’m writing it, reveals to me what I’m feeling. A new poem doesn’t merely put into words what I already know are my thoughts and feelings: it reveals to me what I’m thinking and feeling deep down, even as my head is in a jumble. Let us bless the gift of poetry to the poet.

drawing of phoenix rising from flames into sunlight

How to draw grief: a phoenix rising from flames into sunlight

Bad drawings can reveal hidden truths

I’m also learning that, like poems, quick spontaneous drawings can instruct the artist as well as heal. Not always: I have no idea what that first drawing “means” but I know it’s “about” the life of Grant, my ex-husband. We parted 40 years ago but our lives were intertwined and we were fond of each other.

The drawing of the phoenix is much clearer: it helps me to see cremation as a positive event, bringing hope and clarity and light. Small picture: someone died. Big picture: his life is a triumph and a lesson. Shine on, Grant: you did well.

And finally, here’s Ursula giving my feet a cuddle in sunshine.

Person's legs with cat lolling on feet.

How to cheer up somebody grieving

Don’t worry about me. All is as it should be. All is well.





12 thoughts on “How to draw grief—creative therapy

  1. Sadje says:

    Facing grief pragmatically keeps things in their perspective.

  2. This is an amazing post. I love your drawings and poetry, two gifts I do not have. You use both to clarify things for yourself. Thank you for letting us see the way you go about it.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks, Anne. Not everyone can grasp this, so I’m glad of your feedback.

  3. I love your creative therapy. When I grieve I may write about it (but not in poetry) but I try to keep physically active. Mostly that helps but nothing ever takes it away. It’s a journey.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I see that you have good tools for grieving.

  4. May Grant rest in peace, and those who knew him remember his passing through their lives with fondness.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Peter, those are my wishes too. Thank you.

  5. alison41 says:

    And a cat-foot-warmer has got to be a happy, comforting home appliance. Extra kibble tonight for a caring cat? or a cat treat?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I think her reward is a footrest, cat version.

      1. alison41 says:

        Oh: two sides of the same coin … er … foot?

  6. Grieving is important. Beautiful post. I know you are okay. Thank you for you.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I am touched by your words. Thank you.

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