After Lucia died, I had no idea what to do with all this grief energy. I wanted to run out of my skin. I wanted to shave my head. I wanted a uniform. I wanted...something.
I wrote. The first thing I wrote was her birth story. I tweeked it and edited it. For weeks. That seemed like the whole story of my daughter. She died. She was born. The inverse of normal events. I was writing to try to find Lucia in the story of the only time I held her. I focused on the details of her. She was six pounds, nineteen inches. That was her. She was black-haired. That was her. She was dead. That was her.
None of those things were her.
After a few weeks, I began painting and then my feelings came back slowly. I could feel everything. It was as though I decorated the numb over me with still lifes. Art dissolved the shell of me. Painting made me want more art. I wanted to feel. Because the feeling of grief became her. It was love. Overwhelming love caused overwhelming grief. In the quiet of art, I found Lucia. She was like a prayer and a hope and a whisper and a beautiful thing you cannot hold.
Art became a huge part of my grief journey. It lay a path in front of me that I never imagined possible. I began painting mizuko jizo in the ritual I so desperately craved. In that ritual, she was there. I began painting for other grieving people. I created still life 365. In 2010, I dedicated all my time and energy to still life 365. I published a piece of art, craft, music, painting, poetry, film, collage, sewing...anything created by hands that held their child and wept. I published every day of the year. Sometimes twice a day. That is how much love this community has.
Through the last two years, I have focused more of my attention on my writing. As grief's desperate claws loosened its grip on the back of my neck, I have written less about grief. But it is still there like a low hum on my life. And I don't mind it. She existed and I am better for having known her, for grieving her. I have closed down my Etsy shop to focus on writing. I have stopped publishing at still life 365. And I miss art and creativity and being enmeshed in the community of artists I still consider my closest friends.
Franchesca from Small Bird Studios emailed me a few weeks ago. She asked me to be a quarterly contributor at her new magazine Still Standing. I had seen so many amazing women in our community posting about their writing and contributions that I immediately said OF COURSE!! Still Standing is an online magazine for parents who have lost a child, or suffer from infertility. It is a magazine about hope and healing.
What will I be writing about?
Art. Community. I will be presenting art workshops by video. Or prompting the community to write on their own blogs, like the Spoken Word Prompt. I will be interviewing other artists, like the Artist to Artist conversations on still life 365, publishing podcasts. When Franchesca asked me to participate here, she could have no idea how soul-satisfying that would be to me, or how very much I had missed the community of grieving artists and parents who create, how much I need to be doing this kind of writing and work too.
Art is magic. Art is healing. Art is peace. Art is the glowing stone that everyone gathers around to watch. Art is language. Art is love. Art is joy. Art is my philosophy. Art is community. Art is something special. Art is earth, wind, fire, and water. And my only goal at Still Standing is to share that magic with everyone.
Still Standing launches on May 5th. Until then, you can sign up for the magazine here.
Join Still Standing on Facebook here
In honor of Still Standing, International Bereaved Mother's Day, and writing about art and community, I am offering a handpainted custom mizuko jizo painting to one commenter today. You can ask for a handpainted 5"x7" watercolor greeting card. This is a great way to let someone in this community know you are thinking about them, or honor them on International Bereaved Mother's Day. Or you can ask for a 4"x6" painting for your own altar, or area in your house you have designated for your child or children. Or you can gift that to someone too. You can read more about my artwork and process here. I have a description of mizuko jizo here.
If you are sick of mizuko jizo, I am working on linoleum block prints. Or needlefelted objects. Or an enso meditation. If you are familiar with my work, you might have something screaming out to you that you want one of. Just ask here in the comments. My daily artwork is at still life everyday.