One thing I know is true for me as an artist ~ my art reflects me. The truth of how I feel, what I believe, or even an experience is often present in big and little ways in my art. And it is a bit odd to work on a painting, not knowing what it will finally become. Because it has to become something . . . a part of me. To be perfectly honest, this particular painting made me uncomfortable because it was not the poignant emotive images that I normally paint, but one of more raw grief and depression.
It started out as a line and shape that I wanted to explore. An image that I saw in a fashion magazine of a woman caught in casual thought. But then it became something else entirely. It transformed into something much sadder and a bit depressing. As I continued to paint, she began to clearly look as I did not all that long ago. And that is why it bothered me! I have worked through a whole lot of grief in my time. And I want a break from it. But apparently, this needed to come out and frankly, I was not going to share it. Because who in their right minds wants to hear all about the messier and uglier side of me (the very real and dark depression and grief process). And then I realized that it is still who I am and part of my reason for blogging is not only to share my work, but hopefully bring beauty from pain. If I can expose myself and shine a light on grief and how to cope and manage depression through art, then I am doing exactly what I believe God wants of me ~ to be honest, even if it isn’t pretty or perfect.
As a woman who has experienced death, I know grief. My father died in front of me at age 13. He was only 37 years old. This particular birthday for me was especially difficult. At 37, I found out that the baby girl I was 24 weeks pregnant with would die because she was very sick. She had a conditions of multiple birth defects called Turner’s syndrome and would not survive outside my body. The week after we were told the devestating news my husband was laid off from the position that we moved across the country for. So in less than two weeks time, I was told that my baby girl would die and that we no longer had an income. Talk about winning the lottery of devestation! I had to deal with pregnancy, plan a funeral instead of a birthday and navigate how we would now live without a job in the most expensive zip code in the country. Grief and depression came to live at my house for a while.
Amelia was stillborn in March 2010 (some of you know Amelia’s story already) and we dealt with unemployment for over 20 months. I was depressed. My husband was depressed. We all were still reeling from our grief and the roller coaster never slowed down. More and more financial strain piled upon us in the form of giant home repair and doing everything to secure a job. So, I know about grief ~ I know about depression. I know that they are different but can feel very much the same.
Grief is what takes the place of the one you don’t have anymore. It is an uninvited guest that takes up all the room and leaves you left with little. I have felt darkness ~ staggering through the days until I can’t breath. I know how loss shatters ones heart. . . fractures it like a glacier ~ so from a distance it looks whole, but up close you can see the crevices that are fathomless. I understand what it is like to feel the weight of grief. How it permeates everything, pulling you down until darkness envelopes you. I have felt my bones soften, no longer holding my frame sturdy, no choice but to curl into myself . . . hoping that the pain will eventually end. Grief anchors you to the floor making it hard to move or even feel real.
I have seen the faces of those around me smile and be so full of blissful ignorance. Not comprehending. Not knowing the pain or how it seeps into my skin until I stink of it. My mask firmly in place. The smile reflecting something that used to be there . . . the old me.
And I am here to say without a doubt that the only thing that has saved me from this hell on earth, the only hope I had was Jesus. The greatest pain resulted in the greatest personal experiences I have ever had with my Lord and His LOVE. I didn’t know that I would ever be able to look back through that time and be able to smile and mean it. But I can. I have found hope, peace, and healing love.
God’s perfect love for me waited patiently in the darkness. His light ~ the only thing that I could reach out for in my worst moments of depression and grief. The promise of heaven and seeing Amelia and my father again is normal conversation around the dinner table now. And as I look back at this life I have lived, I am so thankful that I don’t have to be alone or scared when times are down right horrible. Because there is HOPE, PEACE & LOVE of a creator that yearns for me to choose Him. And I do.