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Artful Healing


  • This is where I spread my husband’s ashes with my children, his brother, and his two best friends. It was a beautiful day of remembrance.

  • José Chávez from the Aboriginal Nasa People. An amazing father, grand father and artisan. One of those people who make you feel honored to had the chance to met him. So glad to have contributed to keep his memory alive.

  • ETHEL    Yesterday, I read about you in a poem, Ethel. After Hurricane Katrina, you waited, and prayed, and hoped with others In the Convention Center, your pleas, unheard by outsiders. You died among your people, lost. Then, louder than the Newscasts, your poem’s voice spoke To me from afar.  Reading the poem was like looking into your eyes.   In my mirror, I see my eyes Ethel, And through my eyes, my thoughts tell me things unspoken. New Orleans was a lonely place, because there were no others, I left my wife in California, saying Aye-Aye Navy Captain, I will go.  But I was lost In the city where I was an outsider.   California became home again but then I returned to your city a year ago with other outsiders. With my eyes, I saw a different city that was not lost. We heard your call and came to help Ethel. With the others, I spoke.   I spoke About the things I did with the outsiders. With those others, I tiled floors and painted murals. We restored houses and with my eyes I saw the heart of your city Ethel. Your people were not lost.   Their spirit was not lost As your children spoke. I looked into the kids’ eyes Ethel As I played ball with them and painted their school with the outsiders. In their eyes, I also saw the hearts of the others-   The others From all over your country Came so you would not be lost. I saw in their eyes Loud words spoken. We the outsiders did not forget you Ethel.   The blood of your people, Ethel, flows through the veins of the outsiders Too. I came with the others so your people could speak. In our eyes, you will never be lost.

  • This was an experiment with recycled paper. When I finished the experiment, I found myself creating this paper art sculpture depicting all the areas of my self that I have had to rediscover since the death of my husband, son and father,  along with the journey I am making with my mother as she travels through the mid to later stages of dementia. I feels it shows not so much what I feel about those I have lost but how the loss has helped me live a better and more purposeful life.

  • On January 3rd 2017, my identical twin sister passed away suddenly at age 31. She was a talented artist and theatre-scenic painter. We definitely had a special connection; we created lots of fun art when we were growing up. I created this illustration with lots of love for my sister (after her passing) of her twin dilute calico Scottish fold kittens that she loved so much. They are now part of my #prettykittyclub which is a series of cat illustrations and animated gifs I have done for people over the years: www.NicoleMather-illustrations.comRoxanne identified with Purla so I drew Purla wearing Roxanne’s signature tortoise shell glasses. When we were little girls, I always wore purple and Roxanne always wore pink, but when we got older Roxanne liked purple more so I decided to let her ride the purple unicorn. I hope this illustration serves well as a tribute to my precious sister and that it brings a smile to many peoples faces. This was the first piece of art I was able to create after her passing and when I created this illustration it helped me to realize I can keep creating; that I need to keep illustrating because now I am creating art for us both. Not a day will pass where I will not think of her and miss her deeply.

  • Stephen C. Joyce.  Just two weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I showed up with an armload of cameras and lights and told him to comb his hair, he was going to sit this morning.  He wasn’t thrilled but he played along well with it, as usual for him.  We went around to the various things that were important to him, cars, woodworking, etc.  Then I just stood him in the driveway and got him to talk.  Couldn’t find a shot I liked, so I grabbed a nearby chair and as typical, he swung it around backwards and sat down and gave me some attitude.  I got him talking and laughing again as I set up my Wista 4×5 field camera, then I just started knocking out shots as I told him jokes and made him tell me jokes.  By the end, he had had pretty good time and was tickled we did it.  This particular shot always gets the same initial reaction when I show it someone who knows him…”That is so Stephen.  That is exactly him!”He died just 3 months and a few days later.I’ll always be thrilled that I made him do this.  We had a blast and now he sits in all our living rooms with us…leaning on a backwards chair, in the corner…right where you knew to find him.

  • Trying to make sense of the death of a person close to you, part of your family, who shares with you blood ties is so difficult. Every one try it in it’s own way. To know that my cousin die of sadness doesn’t make things any easier and force me to see myself and to think about my condition. I can’t express with words these feelings, maybe that’s why I create or capture images. This series has so much deep meaning now for me, all that dark places in our heads, all those lurking fears and shadows waiting for us to let our guard down. This is how I try to cope with loss, this is how I confront my fears, this is how I pay homage to my elders. RIP Mario Ricardo, rest in the arms of your dad wait with my uncle for us to arrive to the halls of the ancestors. I can’s stop thinking in my uncle José and my uncle Eliomar too. So much of both of them lives in me. And yes it is personal and probably couldn’t be posted in a public place, but who cares.

  • Francisca Rivera, mayora (female elder) of the Misak people, Ambaló Reservation. Passed away in 2015.During her youth she worked at the service of the same people and families that stolen the lands of their ancestors. But her work and the effort  of the Ancestral Communities of the south of Colombia allow her to finally become owner of an small piece of their ancestral land.She raised several sons and daughters with the work of her hands, and then saw her grandsons (and the grandsons of those who fight with her for the recovery of their territory) grow and become professionals and proud inheritors of her efforts and struggles.She was able to hold in her arms her grand-grand- daughter some months before she passed away.

  • My friend hanged himself because of melancholia.He was a hilarious, kind, and helpful person. However, his work and love abandoned him, which hurt him deeply. Then he started to write some scared notes like he wanted to die in social media. The sad thing was that I understood the emotions because I had depression as well. I knew the feeling of losing the will of living. It was empty, numb, hopeless, and lonely. The feeling was too heavy to make me positive. Nevertheless, I didn’t console him because I believed he would recover or might be going to talk to a counselor, for he always spread happiness to people.I was wrong. I didn’t know he concealed every pain in his mind. I cannot see his smile anymore… As a result, I decided to create a series of self-portrait about melancholia. For me, I can not only release my negative emotions but also tell people what depression is. To tell my story out can help me to get away from gloomy. Also, I can encourage melancholic persons to tell their stories out because they can realize that they’re not alone. After all, I honestly don’t want to see anyone especially my love suffering from melancholia.

  • My father passed away when I was 16 years old. He was an alcoholic and it’s safe to say that the alcohol is what killed him. He was drunk every night that I saw him, he had at least a dozen DUI offenses and his liver was completely shot by age 47. Without any shred of emotional support from my dad, I can say my mom was the one that raised me and had most of the influence on me, when I was young. However, as soon as my father died, I began drinking heavily and stuffed all the feelings for 20 years. Since I was fully susceptible to the emotional triggers that result in alcoholism, it happened in no time flat. My mom had no control over anything I did form there on out. As a result, I had no adult guidance in life, no role models, no mentors, no career planning advice, no structure, discipline, basic conditioning, motivation or direction in life whatsoever. I basically had to invent myself, as a person. In my twenties, I didn’t care if I even lived to be 30. But in may late 20s, I somehow turned into a writer and never looked back. Writing is what led me to discover all the feelings I had previously stuffed, so by the time I got sober at 39, it came a little easier than it did for others. In a nutshell, addiction is the habitual process of trying to satisfy cravings because your brain simply can’t deal with the unbearable pain of the present moment. Almost always, this is the result of trying to latch onto feelings that are impermanent by nature. Then your brain learns and learns and learns as it goes, teaching itself, and getting used to the process of trying to kill the pain at all costs. To your brain, trying to satisfy the craving becomes a normal process, like intrinsically knowing how to ride a bike. Once I understood all of this, the solution gradually became available.  Now things are better. I harbor no hostility toward my dad at all. Forgiveness is a pretty rocking concept. And growing up with no conditioning has proven to be quite a conduit for creativity. I’m able to transform the negative vibes into their positive equivalents. I have learned to be proud of the good qualities he left me with.

  • On some days when I miss my dad, I wear one of his sweaters.

  • Would you believe that my wedding song came on just as I began creating this submission?  I haven’t heard it played in the longest time.  I’m sitting here in tears.  This same song somehow also came on the radio 12 years ago, moments after I said my final goodbye to my wife at the funeral home.  She had an open-casket service.  At the end of the service, my father-in-law went to pull his car around and waited outside for me, so I could be alone and say my final goodbye.  When I got in his car, it was just the two of us.  Time stood still and the silence was haunting.  It reminded me of when I would sometimes fall off my bike as a child; time would slow way down and life seemed different — dreamlike — almost as if I was floating yet still aware that I was falling.  So I was feeling all of this, and my father-in-law reached down and powered on the radio to break the silence.  My wedding song, Shania Twain’s “From This Moment”, rushed from the speakers and filled the car.  Gives me chills to write about it.  These type of “coincidences” happen to me on a fairly regular basis, and my mind usually seeks for ways to dismiss them.  Why?  I really don’t know.  I think it’s largely because I fear receiving a message that wasn’t a message; an incident that was an unrelated occurrence that just happened because it happened. But it’s at times like this very moment, when try as I may, the doubt and armor falls — and I stand unprotected and exposed.  It’s during these times that love simply overpowers me.   I resist the urge to protect myself, because I am unable to, and because there is no need to.  I feel safe as ever, wrapped in the love of an existence that I clearly don’t understand, and somehow, at least briefly, I realize that I don’t need to understand; I just need to feel, and be.  When I clicked on your link, I knew I wanted to contribute but wasn’t sure what to contribute.  But now I know.  I will share a picture that was taken of my wife and me dancing to our wedding song.  It’s blurry because it’s cropped and taken on an older camera phone, but I actually appreciate the blur, because it helps to capture the blurriness of our continued relationship.  I’ve come to learn that when someone dies, the relationship doesn’t end, it just changes.  This realization fills me with hope because it allows me to see that she is still there, and always will be.  She will forever be only a thought, or song, away.

  • Baptism, he made the decision himself. 5 years to the day before his death. If what we believe is true, it is a beautiful symbolism of new and eternal life.

  • Forever loved, forever in my heart, forever 22. My only child was murdered on August 8, 2011. I plunged into darkness for what I thought would be forever. Traveling through the criminal justice abyss, I only found solace in nature. It was through experiencing the beauty of nature that I began to feel my son’s spirit. Slowly, light returned to my world as I felt more and more serenity, awe, and wonder in the midst of the mountains, the streams, the woods, the animals that surrounded me in nature. His spirit lives on forever, in everything that is good and true and beautiful on this side of life, until our spirits unite. Forever.

  • Sometimes when I look at this picture I feel a bit sad because he was already very sick. But I also look at this picture and remember that day fondly because I was finally able to obtain a wheelchair and wheel him down an extremely bumpy sidewalk just to rest at a park bench in a beautiful park at the Saugus Ironworks in Massachusetts. Will never liked to talk much about the fact he was dying. In fact, he never talked about it at all. But on this day, he at least told me that he wished to be buried not cremated. As morbid as that sounds, all in all, it was a beautiful day.


To actively participate in the Artful Healing Gallery, HealGrief invites you to share imagery that honors YOUR grief and loss experience.  For artists, it may be one of your own photographs or it may be a photo of one of your paintings, sculptures, or other works of art.  For non-artists, it may be a picture of a tangible item you treasure to remember your loved one. For example: your father’s pen you use to write with, your mother’s cup you drink your coffee from, or a ring you wear around your neck.

As you journey with grief, you may feel a variety of emotions, such as shock, denial, anger, depression, guilt, or acceptance.  At HealGrief, we want you to know that such feelings are normal, change over time, and are ripe for artistic expression.  As part of the healing process, these feelings can be shared in your artwork, whether or not you consider yourself an artist. We invite you to submit your artistic creativity or personal treasure in the form of a photo. Simply click our “Call for Entries”, upload your image, and tell us the story behind the image.


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