Using art to get through grief as the anniversary approaches

I’m still searching for ways to get through this period, but I’ve just begun a project that I wanted to share with you. I’ve read a lot about mandalas through the work of Cath Duncan (Remembering for Good) and Kara Jones (Mother Henna) but shied away from trying it until today. Then an idea occurred to me. What if I could create a maṇḍala which I would add to throughout this period? So, that’s the project I’ve started. I intend to encapsulate Chris’ love of music, her faith, her love of sport and nature, and her strength in one art project, which I will add to each day during the run-up to Easter. I can’t really say what effect it will have, but I’m willing to give it a go. I know I’ve found the work of both women very helpful, and I am willing to really step out of my comfort zone this time, because I need to get through this in a way which doesn’t involve sleeping through it. (It’s a suggestion I make to myself only half-jokingly.)

Have you ever tried using art to help through grief? What did it offer you, and have you kept the pieces? I look forward to reading about how others have dealt with loss through art. 

Wishing you peace and strength on your journeys,

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About Casey Bottono

I am in love with language. I write poetry and fiction in a wide variety of genres. Most recently, I have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities' Pen2Paper contest.
This entry was posted in anniversaries, Chris, commemoration, coping strategies, Grief Loss and Bereavement. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Using art to get through grief as the anniversary approaches

  1. Cath Duncan says:

    What a great idea! Have you found Heather Plett’s mandala work over at I particularly loved her “lament mandala” – lovely for grief. Since loss and death are beyond the left brain’ ability to understand and control, creativity is so important for engaging our right brains so that we’re living not just “wholeheartedly” but also “wholemindedly” after loss. Our right brains are comfortable with mystery, paradox, ambiguity, unanswerable questions… so much of the difficult stuff that comes up with death and grief, so creative exercises like mandalas are a wonderful and powerful tool for finding yourself and getting clarity about how to live wholeheartedly after loss.

  2. Casey, what a great idea!! Will look forward to whatever you share with us all here as the mandala unfolds for you. Art — or well, more like heART-making — has saved me many many times in the grief process. And it is interesting that one art form might work now for some aspect, but later, some other aspect of grief and life will rear its head and it will be a whole different art form that allows me to express then. I’ve played with art journal, clay, painting, collaging, beading, mandala, prose/poetry, stamp carving… you name it! Each has a different physical sensation for me and has served a different purpose in the ever-unfolding path of grief and life.

    I do keep much of what I create. Or if someone absolutely wants to purchase or have the original, I make sure I have a very good, high res scan of it. I like to have those because they serve as a map, a journal through time. By looking at all the pieces in a chronological way, I can see how very different my life, self, BEing are now compared to standing at the edge of the abyss 13 years ago when I first heard the words, “This baby is dead.” It helps so that when I feel dreadful today, it all gives me perspective that today’s dreadful is very very very different than the version of dreadful I was in 13 years ago. It also all serves to remind me of lessons learned, like doing a mantra each day to settle the mind… I look back over pieces and am reminded again and again to breathe, that emotions come in waves, I am not stuck here or anywhere.

    The heART-making process also gives me many opportunities to Remember and Re-member without actually getting stuck in the trauma of the events that set this path in motion. The trauma shattered many things… in heART-making I am integrating, re-member-ing pieces if you will… and I am finding path ways to continue expressing the love I feel for my sons who died. Death takes a lot and Grief messes with our lives — but neither of them can take away the Love! So heART-making time gives me a tangible way to express my relationship to my sons — a relationship that is not defined by grief, but rather is defined by Love.

    If all that babble makes sense? 🙂
    Thanks so much for your post and prompt! Looking forward to what others have to say about their own processes…and to seeing how your mandala unfolds for you!!!

    • Casey B says:

      ” I look back over pieces and am reminded again and again to breathe, that emotions come in waves, I am not stuck here or anywhere.” That’s something I need to work on. I suppose I will end up working on it as the mandala takes shape. I like the idea of being able to remember without getting stuck in the events themselves.

      Wishing you all the best,


  3. Heather Plett says:

    Casey – I’m so glad you’re finding meaning in a mandala process! It has been really transformative for me and I’m always glad when I can pass that inspiration on to others.

    I’ve been through a lot of loss as well, and have always found a lot of meaning in art-making. As Cath says, shifting into right-brain processes helps us let go of some of our need to find logic and reasons for the things that happen and the way we feel. It’s okay to feel the way you feel.

    Some of my most important learning shows up in the ugliest, darkest art. If your mandala turns out dark and ugly, that’s okay. Let it happen. Just let the shadows be there, because without shadows, the light has no shape.

    Yes, I keep my art as well. It’s all part of my journey and it has meaning for me, even if I never look at it again.

    • Casey B says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Heather.

      It’s an interesting journey, trying to work out what works for me, and at the same time what commemorates Chris in a way that stands to make the year that I knew her important, but no less important because it was only a year. ‘Let the shadows be there, because without shadows, the light has no shape’- advice for mandalas, but also advice for life, I think.

      I wish you all the best in your art and your life (as if there were a distance between the two…there can’t be for artistic people, in my opinion.)


  4. Pingback: Trying to trust balance in grief | Navigating Cyberloss: a place to share your grief

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