Last week found me in a workshop studying the history, spirituality, and craft of icon painting. Carolyn Rock, one of the workshop coordinators, asked me to share with her church some thoughts about the experience. You can find those musings here: http://stnicholasgr.com/a-reflection-on-the-march-iconography-workshop/
Here is a photo of the finished product. The Archangel St. Michael.
Scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I saw a headline from Joey O’Connor (founder of the Grove Center for the Arts and Media as well as a grief recovery specialist) about grief. (Jan. 31, 2017) The title was Is Grief and Loss Affecting Your Art and Life?
“Yes,” I muttered to myself, and continued to scroll. It’s all I can do to keep my head above water as we care for Dad, sort through all of Mom and Dad’s belongings, work, and care for friends and family who have serious health issues. The query seemed to be a no-brainer and made me not just a little annoyed. Easy question to answer, but difficult to process and work with.
Grief is not only painful, but can be debilitating as well. I know that, I’ve experienced it, but can’t seem to work through it right now. This became very clear when I was cleaning out my studio and found something that made me break down in sobs remembering a dear friend who is gone. A small, collapsable water container she’d bought in England when we spent a summer there studying art. Her death is one of the many griefs I’ve collected over the past few years.
Bottom line. Grief is about a broken heart and when your heart is broken the rest of you doesn’t work well. I can see the evidence of this in my life - things are not working well. I have stopped working out. Writing and painting are practically at a stand still. I’m buried in boxes from my in-laws apartment and can’t make a decision about each and every piece of paper Mom collected. Often, I catch myself wanting to call Mom Kemper with a small piece of news or a question and remember I can’t anymore. I have little joy, in fact my emotions are often flat.
Grief is supposed to be only for a season, but with all the losses that have come into my life over the past 5 years or so it seems more like a lifestyle.
While I’ve toyed with the idea of a support group, the fact is I have a tremendous support group with my friends. One friend invited me to southern Florida to spend a week with her to relax and just get away for a bit. With Mike’s encouragement, I left with the intent to sit on the beach for a week sipping margaritas. There were high winds that made sitting on the beach more like sitting getting sandblasted, but the weather was in the mid seventies as opposed to the snow that I left behind in the north. We did not spend a lot of time frenetically going from tourist site to tourist site. We had leisurely mornings, fun outings, took care of small errands for her daughter whose house we were staying at and had good conversations. That week gave me a breather and was good for my soul. And as an extra bonus, I got a text from our uncle saying the infusions he’s been getting are working. His doctors are ecstatic at the results and we are rejoicing with him.
I’m back home again and the problems are still there, but I have a fresh view of them. As I am renewed, I can be a better support for Mike and Dad.
If you are going through a season of grief, be careful not to let it become a lifestyle. Pay attention to your heart, give yourself grace, and surround yourself with family and friends that actually listen to you and don’t offer platitudes. You are not alone.
Here is a resource if you feel you need help getting unstuck from grief: https://www.griefshare.org/
A highly recommended source for grieving is The Grief Recovery Handbook. You can find it here: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/books/grief-recovery-handbook
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.