thoughts & ponderings
When I studied for my Art Therapy diploma I was unprepared for the unfolding that was about to occur. The stripping back of layers and delving into the shadowy places to get a better understanding of who I was as a person and the external influences throughout my life that shaped me, and in some cases damaged me. I think the power of the creative processes and the importance of the therapist providing a safe space is misunderstood in Art Therapy.
Many people I speak to consider it as a bit of an art and craft class where they can color in books and do collage. Now, don't get me wrong, there is a place for coloring and collage for sure, but the purpose of an art therapy process or exercise goes much deeper. What is created is an outer expression of your inner world. By stepping back and being able to view the artwork (in whatever form; image, words, sculpture, movement etc.), a new perspective is possible and insights can be gleaned from exploring this landscape bringing understanding and healing.
I have decided to share the above image which I created during my training and also some journaling that was a part of the healing process for a tragic experience in my life. I started by creating this image as a depiction of my grief. From here, through dialogue with the image and focusing in on specific areas I came to a place where I was able to identify, accept and integrate the complex emotions around the experience. This process then culminated with my healing story which I have included below. While art therapy draws on different ways of expression, for me this was what worked over a period of time. It is also pertinent to note that art therapy is not about a perfect and polished piece of work at the end but an authentic expression of your inner world.
**Trigger Warning. Please note that the following story is in relation to infant death.
"Once upon a time in a land beyond the clouds there was a broken-hearted woman. She was trapped in a landscape that was harsh and barren. She spent her time kneeling on the sand floor of a desert valley in sadness. This valley was wide and empty and had a huge mountain to the east and another to the west.
As the sun lazily slid behind the western mountain, the air grew cold, and as the big silver moon rose into the sky, the air would grow colder. The woman didn't notice the cold because she already felt a coldness inside. The coldness held within her body was hard and brittle and resided in the very core of her being.
She spent her days and nights crying, silently and without tears as the tears were frozen inside like shards of ice. One night as she knelt and wept she heard a beautiful, lamenting song. As it floated down it gently wrapped itself around her she looked up to the eastern cliff and saw a woman, standing with her arms outstretched, chanting to the moon. The chanting found its way into the grieving woman's soul and tears began to run down her cheeks as the warmth started to thaw her.
Then she heard another beautiful, lamenting song from the western cliff. The woman turned and looked up to see a magnificent she-wolf howling in harmony with the woman's soul song. Like a magic key turning in an invisible lock, her own soul song emerged, thinly and softly at first but building and growing stronger. Soon it flowed, and played and intertwined with the others. And the warmth spread throughout her being.
So she sang and as she gazed upon the moon she saw the spirit of her lost infant child. The child came to her and gently brushed her tears and the woman was overcome with a such a sense of peace and love. Gradually as the chanting subsided, the woman knew that peace and love was now held within her and she cherished it. She looked to the woman on the cliff, smiled and bowed her head in thanks, then repeated the gesture to the she-wolf. The woman then looked down at the pool of her tears on the valley floor, shining in the moonlight and clearly saw her path out of this cold, lonely place. For the first time in ages the woman slowly stood, then walked into the pool, away to a new land forever taking the infant child in her heart."
The process is not about making it go away or being able to forget it and move on but reframing an experience and finding acceptance and integration.
SANDS (Australia) miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death support email@example.com.
© White Sage Wellbeing & contributors. 2017