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Monday, December 16, 2013

Guest Post: Art Therapy

'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' -Isaiah 41:10

When hardship falls this is a verse I meditate on. In addition to finding comfort in the word and prayer I utilize the gifts the Lord has given me in order to find comfort and clarity. Following is a heartfelt and bravely written post by my new friend Sarah… 

Hello! I'm Sarah from Given To Art. I'm an artist living in very sunny Western Australia. I'm also a wife to quite possibly the world's most wonderful husband, and a mother to five absolutely beautiful children. I spend my days creating art and paper products, and trying to organise our slightly chaotic household. I want to thank Lena for allowing me to guest post on her lovely blog, and hope you all enjoy what I have to say! 

I thought I'd write about how art is an amazing form of emotional therapy, and how it's helped me overcome some pretty difficult emotions this past couple of years. I feel so amazingly blessed with my life and family, but for a while there I was in a very dark place. My husband is the most wonderful man; he's a better Step-Father to my four older children than I could ever have possibly imagined. I won't go into details about their actual father, suffice to say that I left him because it was a very bad situation and once I had worked up the courage to leave I never imagined I would meet someone who completes my life the way he does. But I did. And he left his home country of America to marry me and all he asked in return was a child of his own. He loves my children and he is so good for them, but he wanted us to have a baby together and I happily agreed. It never entered my mind that it would be so hard to achieve. 

I fell pregnant pretty easily despite being 36, but we sadly had an early miscarriage. That was a month long process of ER visits, blood tests and procedures and it was quite difficult to think about. But we moved on from it, reassured by the doctors positivity; this was a one-off and there was no reason to think it would happen again. A couple of months later we were excited to be pregnant again; this time we were a little more cautious though in our joy and waited for an early ultrasound to confirm a heartbeat and that all looked good. We got great news that everything looked as perfect as could be seen that early, and at 8 weeks felt confident to tell the other kids, then the rest of our family and friends. Then at 9 weeks, I had a feeling that something wasn't right. We went straight into the ER at the local hospital where they thankfully took us seriously despite no obvious symptoms of anything being wrong. An ultrasound that day showed us that our baby had grown since last time, but devastatingly there was no heartbeat anymore. 

It was incredibly difficult to process; the few days that followed passed in a blur of tears, sadness and confusion.  Then when we learned through testing that the baby had a very rare chromosome problem called Trisomy 14 which was incompatible with life, depression set in for me. I just couldn't understand how it could be so hard. I felt like a failure. I felt that I had let my husband down despite his assurances that it wasn't the case. I kept telling him he should leave and that he deserved better. How he stuck with me I will never know, but I am eternally grateful that he did. 

It still makes me cry when I think about it. This is the first time I have written about it; we only talked about it to a few select people. I found that I just couldn't discuss it. I browsed online forums and blogs in search of answers. It brought me some comfort although no answers. It felt somehow easier to 'talk' to people who couldn't see my face, couldn't see the tears that were falling but at the same time understood my pain. The anonymity of the internet helped me to talk it out with others who had experienced the same thing as we were going through, but I still felt so empty. 

One night while my husband was out and my other children were all sleeping I was watching tv and something struck me. I just couldn't stop crying. I'm crying now again remembering it, but that's ok. I  picked up a canvas and a big paintbrush and I started painting. I remember it was very frenzied. I just needed to get this emotion out of me. I painted the entire canvas red. Then I painted a face over the top of all that painful colour. I will never forget until the day I die what I thought as the face evolved. I looked at it and though 'that's my baby'. I had painted our baby who we would never meet, never hold.....never hear cry and be able to comfort. After a while I sat back and cried. I looked at this work of art and cried so hard. But I felt....better. I felt like I might be ok after all. It's going to sound so silly when I write it, but I felt like I said goodbye to this tiny little person and I felt like that was what I had needed all along. 

 My husband later on said that the painting looked like his brother. I had never told him I thought it was our baby, but it made that conviction all the stronger within myself when he said that. 
I kept painting after that and it was such a catharsis. My art has taken a different direction since that night, and one that I love. I believe that the grief unlocked something and allowed me to work more freely. It taught me a lesson; that it's ok to not understand things and it's ok to be sad about it. The first miscarriage was difficult, the second was devastating. But I found something that allowed me to cope. People told me to have faith that it was for the best, but faith is a very very hard thing to have when you cannot see past your own sense of loss and unfairness. Everyone needs something to cling to; for me my art helped me to have that faith that it would be alright in the end. My art allowed me to say goodbye and let me see that I was actually strong enough to cope with this. I know there was something guiding me that night to paint and let out that emotion. And I will be forever grateful for that. 

Because I know how cathartic art can be, because I have experienced it myself, I want to help others feel the same. I hope that when people look at my work they can feel the emotion, but I also want to teach others how to do that through art therapy and journalling. I will be running workshops with that theme next year, and hopefully will be able to extend them to online as well. I know that it is such a painful thing to bear; I'd like to think that I can help and guide others who experience loss and grief no matter what form that came in.Creating art can in this way can evoke some very full on emotions but it also allows you to deal with those emotions in a beautiful way. 

I want to thank you all for reading my ramblings here today. I want you to know that this is the first time I have 'talked' about the miscarriages, and there have been some more tears today writing this. I hope there is someone out there though who reads this and feels a tiny bit better for knowing that somewhere at least someone knows how she feels. 

Oh, and we did have our little miracle. She is a happy and healthy (and very vocal!) 5 month old baby girl who lights up our entire household. I will never ever forget the babies that I didn't get to meet, but when I look at her and hear her little squeals of baby joy I have that faith again that once upon a time seemed just too hard to grasp. 

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