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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Art Therapy 5: Understanding Grief Part 7 of 8 - Reconstruction & Working Through (Phase 6)

There is probably not one of us who have not had to deal with the devastating effects of losing someone dear to us. Everyone grieves in their own way and it would be a cheap attempt to say that one formula fits all. Yet, numerous attempts have been made to identify the phases that people in grief pass through and seven have been agreed upon to be more or less universal. We will take a look at these phases in an attempt to gain some form of understanding for the process we are passing through. We take this journey in the form of an art journal, attempting to somehow find a means of dealing with the loss we have experienced and continue to experience still. In this seventh blog of the eight part series, we look at the sixth  phase identified, namely reconstruction and working through.
This blog is co-authored by Marietjie Uys (artist) and Melette Els (therapist).
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

We start this stage on the reverse side of the previous page in our journal. This means that we are working on the blank side of the page that held the giraffe's head, reminding ourselves that our giraffe was looking forward towards the future. We also take a blank page from our Dala Paper Pad.
Before starting this part of the journal, ask yourself:
How am I feeling?
Which emotions am I experiencing?
What is my average daily functionality level?
What is the average level of my mood?

We once again use the holes in the previous page as guides to punch the holes on the new page in the correct places. Again we use our experiences of 'yesterday' to guide us in aligning ourselves for the future.

I then use Dala Craft Paint in a vibrant Turquoise to paint both of my pages. My choice fell on these colours as this is one of my favourite colours, making me feel alive, energized and at peace with the world.
What is your favourite colour and why?
Which colour will you be using here? Why?

I pour some Dala Fine Art Sand onto a palette. Using this sand has a lot of symbolic value for me. It reminds me of the sand in an hourglass. Time has lapsed since my loss and I am able to look back on a long journey, both in physical time, as well as emotional growth.

I scoop some Dala Acrylic Gel Medium into the sand. This will help to bring all of those loose particles together.

I use my palette knife to mix the gel and the acrylic gel medium together. In this stage of the process we will be looking reconstructing our lives and working through the tragedy and its consequences. We will need to practically start taking a hold of the matters at hand to try and sort them out.
In order to sort something out, one first has to define/name the 'matters at hand'. It might feel like an overwhelming amount of stuff, but start listing the things one at a time, deconstructing a seemingly overwhelming load. One always feels more in control when something can be reduced to manageable portions, rather than overwhelming mass. As time goes by , you may come across new 'issues' to deal with. but for now you only need to concentrate on what is relevant for the moment. What practical problems to you experience right now? Does it seem to you as if there are no solutions for the problems at hand? Remember, we have already learned that we need a new skill set and new knowledge. Figure out the ones you can and consult experienced people for the others. You may need to acquire new resources. Do whatever needs to be done to deal with the 'matters' at hand.
Before I knew of the Acrylic Gel Medium, if someone had told me to fix sand to a canvas, I would have thought of gluing the page and then sprinkling the sand on by hand. Now I have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge to know which mediums and tools to use to achieve the desired results. It is very much the same with learning to live with grief. It requires a whole new set of knowledge, tools and skills to achieve, and we should be patient with ourselves while we acquire these.
Did you consult other sources for acquiring new knowledge during your process/journey? What were those sources, e.g. people who have had similar experiences, professionals, literature, websites, previous life experiences, the Bible, etc.
What skills and knowledge have you acquired so far in your journey?
What skills and knowledge would you still like to acquire for the journey?

I use my palette knife to plaster my sand mixture onto the layout, covering the bottom third of the page. This reminds me of plastering a wall of a house, covering all the irregularities and unevenness-es and smoothing it out. There is a life lesson in this. Sometimes we struggle so hard to chisel away at all the rough patches in life, while there are easier ways of achieving the same results.

While the mixture is still wet, we use the side of the palette knife to scratch lines into the sand mixture, effectively turning it into building blocks. We will use these blocks to help us to reconstruct our shattered lives in a meaningful way.
Sometimes we have to be patient with the processes along our journeys, and at other times we need to act quickly in order to achieve a desired result. Compare it to this process, where you have to act while it is still wet in order to achieve the desired results.

Find a magazine that appeals to you to search for words that deal with your life. Part of reconstructing your life is to identify the areas which will need to be addressed. Everyone of us will have different aspects to identify, and yet you will probably also find that we have a number of issues in common. Try to be as realistic and true to yourself and about your life as possible.

At first, I simply cut the words from the magazine that I can associate with. You may try to organize them into a particular order, but realistically, life seldom affords us the leniency to start and finish with any one of these, rather expecting us to keep all the balls in the air at once.

I then used wood glue to paste the words onto the sand blocks on my journal page. My list of things that needed to be addressed for life to continue practically included: the children, work, fear/security, studies, communication (sorting out cell phone contracts, etc), responsibilities redistributed, finding a handyman, dealing with loneliness, etc.

There was also taking charge, to remember that I have a team to fall back on, managing money, looking at home bonds, re-evaluating the budget, taking care of health and medical aid issues ...

Then there are words dealing with collecting information about the things I did not use to deal with, dealing with post-traumatic stress, budgeting my time, taking care of wider family members, looking at help for the home/garden, dealing with opportunists who are lying to me, dealing with my emotions practically, making the necessary mind shifts, fitting the things that I am passionate about into my newly organized life ...

And then I still had the wider work area (clients, suppliers, etc.), learning to organize things I know nothing about, dealing with my memories, and planning for the future (policies, testaments, etc.). These are all very practical considerations and some may not apply to you at all. It all depends on the role played by the person you have lost. The closer you were to the lost one, the more intertwined your lives had probably been and the more practical components would need to be addressed.
Remember that you have a support network! Do not allow this to overwhelm you. Deal with the things you can and ask your support network to assist with advice, suggestions, planning, etc. for the rest.

I then use my ruler and a marker to draw a set of steps above my building stones.

It is hard to learn to manage all of these different aspects of life, and at times it may seem like you are struggling up a steep embankment. However, it is a journey we can not avoid taking, without risking losing the things we hold dear to us, and we have to find a way to persevere.
Again, I want to remind you of your support network. They are all there, cheering you on, ready and prepared to assist if you slip or need to take a break.

I then use my gold marker to write the title on this journal page 'Reconstruction and Working Through'. I choose gold, because it is the colour of victory and I am determined to be a winner in this.

Then I decide to add some more journal-ling to the page and write the following words under the steps I had drawn with the marker: Taking practical steps towards making life work again. It now feels to me as if I have finally put my resolve in words.
How do you feel when you look at this?
What courage and strength did it require of you to get to this point?
What does this tell you about yourself?
Would you have thought yourself capable of achieving all of this beforehand?

And then I acknowledge that I have a lot to learn. On the firs step I draw a stick man on hands and knees, struggling on its chosen journey. On the second step, my man has regained its footing, but he is still stooped over.

On the third step my stick man is taking longs and confident strides. On the last step my man became a bit squashed in. I originally intended for him to be running, but instead, I drew him doing the splits with his hands very nonchalantly lifted in the air. He is the picture of fitness, in control and finding this as easy as anything. This is how good I want to get at this, but I realize I will have to start out slow and learn the ropes one lesson at a time. I will be patient with both myself and the process, because I realize I am only human. However, I am able to do what is necessary given enough time, and if I work on it at a steady pace.

A view of the completed double spread layout.

Melette Els (Clinical Social Work) can be contacted via the webpage, or by email at, or by phone at 082 776 1536.
Melette Els B.A. (SocSc) M. (Th) 
BHF Pr Nr.: 089 000 00 28754 SACSSP Reg.Nr.: 10-17310

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy her books here:You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
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