Pain Is Not Redeemed by Art: Grief, Loss and Creative Practice

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Pain Is Not Redeemed by Art: Grief, Loss and Creative Practice
I’ve been a writer all my life, and a visual artist, too. When I was in private practice, I used creative tools with my psychotherapy clients, drawing from Jungian traditions, from global mythology, from creative arts of all kinds. From sand-tray to self-inquiry, my territory was the creative inner world.

And then my love drowned in front of me on an otherwise ordinary day.

Tell me, what use is it to rearrange mythic figures on a board when life has exploded that way? Where is the relevance of self-inquiry in the face of such reeling pain? A paintbrush is not going to solve anything.

Because I had both art and writing as parts of my professional life before I became widowed, I heard several times how lucky I was: lucky because I could write and make art from my experience. Lucky, because I could turn this death around and make it a gift.

As though this loss, my partner’s sudden death, were redeemed somehow by the act of writing about it or by making art from it.

As though our life, his life, was a fair trade for whatever work came out of it.

There’s a deep cultural presumption that creating something out of grief somehow makes it all even out in the end. That your deepest call is to transform your grief into a work of art that touches others. That when you do that, when you turn to creative expression in the depths of pain, you are, in fact, healing your grief. Creativity is a way to transform pain. The results of your creativity, if they’re good enough, can help others transform their pain. It all works out.

But the truth is, there is no fair trade. Whatever you might create in your pain, out of your pain, no matter how beautiful or useful it might be, it will never erase your loss. It will never make it all okay, in the end or otherwise.

So this is tricky territory.

Many of us are at home with art and words. There is a call to write, to get the words down, to process and to witness our own lives. I think the human mind naturally goes to creative expression: it’s the way we’re built. We are story-telling creatures.

Without that call to express great pain, we wouldn’t have images from Käthe Kollwitz. We wouldn’t have Picasso’s Guernica. We wouldn’t get to feel our own pain reflected in the words of C.S. Lewis, or Cheryl Strayed, or Claire Bidwell-Smith, or Emily Rapp. Our own expressions, and those of others, give us some comfort, here in the depths of loss. We take comfort from the company of our own kind, the people living deep loss alongside us, throughout time.

It’s when that creative practice is pitched as a cure for grief, or as a necessary shattering in order to be of use, that I bristle and start snarling.

Creating something good out of loss is not a trade, and it’s not a cure.

Pain is not redeemed by art.

And yet, we make art anyway.

Writing the story of what was is no fair trade for not being allowed to continue living what was.

And yet, we write anyway.

The truth is, pain, like love, needs expression. Some of us use words. Some paint. Some build, some invent, some serve. We are story-telling creatures.

Creative expression is part of me. It’s part of you. It’s in all of us.

That you make something beautiful and useful out of your pain, whether for yourself or others, is a wonderful thing. It’s a healing thing. But it’s not a prescription, and it won’t fix anything.

And we create anyway.


Megan Devine is a writer, counselor, and grief advocate. She helps people living deep grief bear the life they’re in. You can find her at Come explore that odd intersection between the craft of writing and the reality of pain — join a growing group of writers in this session of the 30 day online writing course, Writing Your Grief. We’d love to have you. Enroll by 3/23.

A Reservoir of Hope
On Tuesday, January 28, a renowned New York City surgeon diagnosed me with cancer, confirmed by a two-page pathology report from a top Weill Cornell oncologist. A week earlier the surgeon had removed a mass from my hip and the oncologist declared it a sarcoma, a malignant tumor generally affecting the fat tissue around limbs.

On Wednesday, February 5, the Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston corrected the diagnosis. The mass was an angiomyxoma, a benign tumor involving the blood vessels that can be excised with little likelihood of recurrence. I did not have cancer.

The misdiagnosis was understandable. Angiomyxoma can present itself deceptively. My gender and age lined up with a sarcoma diagnosis and my father had just been treated for prostate cancer, therefore establishing a family history.

When I first heard the word, I became light-headed and nauseous. A nurse helped me onto a bed and I was given the details: the margins of the excision aren’t clean; it’s unclear if the cancer has spread; and treatment includes more surgery and most likely radiation. I ultimately collected myself and walked out of the physician’s office.

I had a business meeting scheduled for that evening, then parent’s night at my middle son’s preschool and finally dinner with my wife and another couple. I decided to keep the appointments. The night ended up being calmer than I could have ever imagined lying light-headed in the surgeon’s office. And the calm continued into the next day, through the next night, and into all the days until the original diagnosis was overturned.

Why? Why did I feel so calm?

I am generally a strong person, but I was experiencing a strength I’d never felt. It started when I collected myself and walked out of the surgeon’s office. I realized that millions of people had done just that, millions of times before me. They heard the word, got scared, collected themselves, and walked out to face the fight before them.

I thought of my father, 25 years my senior, who had left Hope Lodge at Dana Farber just three months prior with a report of complete remission; a close friend and contemporary who successfully battled cancer; and a close colleague, almost 10 years my junior, who fought it off in his 20s.

As I made my way downtown for my evening of appointments I noticed the subway signs, the bus-side posters, the t-shirts and the pink ribbons. Signs of cancer struggle, support and survival are everywhere in our culture. The strength to collect myself and walk out of that doctor’s office was a strength given to me by all the people who had come before me, a reservoir they built that I was now drinking from. As the week went on I got a glimpse of how deep that reservoir is and also a sense that it deepens further with every person that decides to fight, and with every poster and pink ribbon.

Cancer is like few other diseases. You can have it. You can have it and not know it. You can have had it. And even with the best physicians in the world you can think you have it and then be assured that you don’t. Cancer is insidious, sneaky, indiscriminate and generally ornery.

Fortunately, this time, I don’t have to test the depth of the reservoir and for that I am extremely grateful, but I am now committed to helping deepen it in any way that I can.

Bo Peabody is an entrepreneur and investor with Greycroft Partners in New York. He founded Tripod, one of the original social networks and was chairman of Everyday Health. He wrote a book for entrepreneurs called “Lucky or Smart?” published by Random House.

How to Stop Worrying
There seems to be a lot to worry about in life given we cannot control everything. But worrying is a huge drain of your energy and completely useless so today I am going to offer you a way to stop worrying, or at the very least dramatically reduce it.

Honestly I used to be quite the worrywart. As a little girl, when my parents went out for date night they’d have to call home once every hour to assure me they were okay because I was so worried something would happen to them. I continued to experience lots of worry into my adulthood until I learned ways to manage it and accept the unknown in my life.

Worry gives us a false sense of control when we are uncertain about someone or something. When faced with the unknown, worrying is often the default habit we slip into as it gives us a way to seemingly deal with whatever our concern is.

In today’s vlog I breakdown worry for you and teach you a technique that you can start using today to transform from worrywart to dream manifestor!

The thing you most need to understand about worry is that it is using your imagination poorly. Anything you are worrying about you are making up. We cannot predict anything in the future so as long as your mind is going to jump ahead, make what you are making up good!!

You have so much creative mental energy. Use your imagination in a way that creates the feelings and experiences you desire rather than dread. Be sure to watch the vlog to learn how making “Ideal Scenes” will help you do this.

Instead of thinking your worrisome thoughts, create and think thoughts and affirmations, which support presence and peace. Rather than think “What if I do not get a job?” Write down and then redirect your thoughts to, “I am confidently going on job interviews that I am excited about and entertaining multiple offers!”

Worry is fear, not love. Your imagination is too creative and expansive to waste on worry. The people in your life are too precious to worry about, send them loving energy and positive thoughts instead. Your time is too precious to waste on fear-based thoughts.

I want to hear how you are reforming your worrywart! Head on over to the blog and share your positive affirmations in the comments section.



Subliminal hypnosis: sports hypnosis, weight loss hypnosis, mental health hypnosis, and 40 different topics hypnosis at, full catalog photo 2163_zps044fb03b.jpg


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