A little over a week ago one of my best friends, ShS, died of lung cancer. It was unexpected. She lives up North, so I have not seen her for almost two years, but we talked on the phone. She was an integral part of my group of friends, and has been since about 1993. She was also an amazing person, almost always positive and up for a laugh. We had such fun over the years. I am going to miss her terribly.
Her first marriage was difficult and ended in divorce, twice. Her second marriage (or maybe it is her third since she married that first husband, the raging asshole, twice?) was to a kindly man who loved her completely. They were together for 36 years.
I have been concerned about her husband, K, since her death. At 70 years old, and with health issues of his own, I worry about him being alone. I know grief can be brutal. He is probably numb right now. How will he cope?
In my dream K sent me photographs he took of winter scenes via email attachments. There were at least a dozen of his lovely photographs, appearing almost black and white only because that is what winter looks like in Upstate New York. Perhaps also because that is what grief looks like? The subject matter was simple, stark, cold, and beautiful. He took pictures conveying his loneliness and sorrow. He did not turn away from his pain; instead, he made a picture of it and made it beautiful.
I was awestruck by those photos. When I awoke, at 3 a.m., I could not wait to send them to K so he could see what he needed to do. As I returned to my conscious state, I sadly realized I actually didn't have the photos. They were not in my email in real life. They were part of the dream.
It occurred to me that was what art therapy does for a person in crisis. It allows a suffering human being to plug into the creative imagination and find some relief from pain. It frees the symbolic to work on our damaged psyches, allowing that great archetypal world to soothe and begin to heal us. We experience the symbolic most purely without words, without language. I wonder if truth is easier to accept in that form?
I am going to share this dream with K. However, I know that the dream was also for me. Dreams are always for the dreamer. Everyone who appears in a dream is a symbolic part of the dreamer. I am pretty sure that is true. So this message about managing grief with the visual arts, although universal, is one that I need to embrace and explore as well.
|Footprint and pansy in the snow|