Have you ever heard the saying “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” It’s a powerful sentiment… and every time I read it I am reminded how important it is to stretch beyond your comfort zone. This week I’ll be doing just that when I give my first-ever Color, Creativity, Grief & Gratitude Workshop, to teach people how to use their innate creative gifts as part of the grieving process. I’m excited to be doing this workshop, because putting pen to paper was what helped me after my husband died unexpectedly 4 1/2 years ago… and I’m hopeful that sharing what I’ve discovered on my own grief journey will make a difference for others who are mourning the loss of a loved one. This is the cover of the handout packet:
For me, these four concepts, Color, Creativity, Grief & Gratitude are inexorably intertwined. When you lose someone you love, you are immediately and irrevocably changed. Grief sears your soul, and makes you so numb that struggle to make decisions, much less tap into your creative strengths. It imperceptibly colors your view of the world, and forces you to grow in ways you could never have imagined before your loved one died.
When newly bereaved, it can take every ounce of strength you can muster just to get through the day. This is where the practice of looking for the blessing (in even the most devastating situations) can help us stay grounded in gratitude. Expressing grief creatively, which is part of what I will be teaching in the workshop, can help people heal.
As you probably know from the personalized birthday messages I’ve shared in previous blog posts, I enjoy creating art to help people commemorate and celebrate special days in their lives. In addition to birthdays and anniversaries, for the past few years I have also been making memorial tributes to help people I care about remember those they love. They seem to bring such comfort to the families that I wanted to share a few this week in hopes that you might consider creating something similar when someone in your circle of friends and family has a need. The memorial tribute pieces I do fall into several categories:
KEEPSAKE BOOKS: I make these by inscribing a person’s name and life dates in the front of book, and asking people to share special stories about them so the family will have additional connections to their loved one. Our community lost a bright light this week when my friend Allan Burnstine lost his valiant battle against cancer. I made this book for Allan’s family, and asked everyone who attended the funeral to write something in it.
When someone I care about loses a loved one, and I am not able to attend the funeral, I create a title page for their keepsake book, and send a file that they can print out and paste in the front of a similar book. This is the one I created for my friend Regina when her mother died last week:
POSTERS: If I’m especially close to the family, I will hand-letter a poster that can be displayed during the funeral. In September I had two friends who lost loved ones the same day. This is the poster I lettered for my friend Dave in honor of his wife Linda:
And this the poster I lettered for my friend Judy in memory of her dad:
DIGITAL COMMEMORATION PRINTS: As a gift of comfort for friends and family, I often create a special piece when I hear that someone they love died. I have several different designs (most of which originally were created in memory of my husband), and letter the name, and the life dates if I can find them, of the person who died. This is one I did tonight when my friend Alison shared sad news that a mutual friend died:
MEMORIAL KEEPSAKES: These are pieces I usually give to people I’m close to. I just made this one and gave it to my friend Allan’s children; I made one that says “Forever in My Heart” for his wife.
People often display these next to a photograph of their loved one.
HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY CARDS: When a friend mentions that they are remembering someone they love on their birthday, I make a birthday card to help commemorate the occasion. This is one I made for a fellow widow on her husband’s birthday:
“ANGELVERSARY” PRINTS: I know first hand how difficult the anniversary of your loved one’s death can be… and how important it is to you that you are not the only person who remembers. So I often create ‘angelversary’ pieces for my friends. This is one I made for my friend Debbie on the 4th anniversary of her husband’s death.
Grief doesn’t have a time table; it isn’t something you can fix, nor is it something that people can just ‘get over’. While everyone’s grief journey is different, most people want to keep the memory of their loved one alive… to know that their life mattered. And each of us can help people we care about keep the memory of their loved one(s) alive… you don’t have to create personalized memorial pieces the way I do– just letting them know it’s okay to mention the name, and share stories about the person that died is extremely helpful. If you aren’t sure what to say, try “I was thinking about __ today; I know you must miss him/her very much”.
On a more celebratory topic, thank you for all the nice comments about the watercolor colorables and birthday messages I shared last week. Special thanks to those who were kind enough to leave a comment saying what sizes and themes you’d be interested in. Congratulations to Kim Jayhan, who won the set of colorables! Kim, please send me your snail-mail address, and tell me whether you’d prefer flowers or butterflies, and I’ll send your prize out.
Before closing this week, I need to apologize to Quwatha for misspelling her name on her birthday sign last week. I’ve re-lettered your name, and since your birthday was last month, decided not to include the ‘happy birthday’… this is the same artwork on two different backgrounds. Would love to know which you like best! Here is the dramatic version on black:
And this is a version using an ombre wash I created with the Koi Coloring brushes, and added digitally.
I tried a new tool for this lettering… can anyone guess what I used? I’ll letter the name of the first person who guesses correctly.