Saturday, May 20, 2017

Podcast: When Small Talk Is No Small Matter

This podcast is exploring how even the most tiny of things can get shaken and require us to make new meaning in the aftermath of grief. Small talk becomes no small matter for some us having grief experiences, and so in this episode, we are exploring:

  • Things, our faith, our work, even small talk, change after grief comes.
  • So how do we re-imagine our social being?
  • Small talk can feel like it is bombarding us, and we have less tolerance for it and other social experience.
  • How do we get curious about this rather than judgmental about it?
  • Addressing these realization can help us release shame also.
  • What questions do we ask of ourselves to re-create our meanings and connections?
  • How do we tend and take time to be our own best advocate AND reconnect with others?
  • What does a different kind of small talk sound like - an example.
  • These redefinitions are important because they gets to the heart of the matter and this is where we have agency.

To stream this podcast, click here.

Thanks as always for listening!
From my radical grandma heart to yours,

If you like what you hear, 
please click the tip jar to support
our grief+creativity efforts.

[Originally published as written article at Radical Creativity, March 24, 2012]

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Abby's Bad Advice: bereavement in a grief denying culture

Forget Abby...
Bereavement may feel like an extraordinary process, but it is such an ordinary and every single day happening. We’re all human. We all die. Every day people die. Naturally or not. And people are left grieving those who died. Every day. People are left not only trying to integrate this new reality without the person they loved, but also facing mortality issues, seeing up close and personal how death comes for us all, facing issues of their own mortality. This is happening every. single. day. on our planet.

And yet people having grief experiences, more likely than not, are treated as if they suddenly have a disease that needs to be cured, fixed, gotten over or that requires “closure.*” Given that the bulk of our world is a grief denying society**, it actually may be the case that people end up feeling dis-eased (not diseased, but dis-eased). Many people I've worked with over the years are in fact not at ease at all and not being helped to feel at ease either! The more uneasy we feel, the more isolated we may tend to become. The more isolated we become, the more complicated the grief experience becomes. The more complicated the experience, the more ill at ease we get. Vicious cycle.

I'm not sure how we think people can do self-care (individualistic values), when as a community (the context within which we all live, like it or not) we can’t even figure out how to deal with the most ordinary of happenings!? When we can’t face the ultimate reality for all of us? When we have no community value on care in this area?! Death will happen to all of us. It is a fact. And avoiding that fact isn’t helping anyone. So why do we continue this pattern? And how can we change it?

Why it continues
There is an idea you may hear around the issues of addiction or domestic violence that says to truly heal, to be whole again, we must break the cycle. Until we can break the cycle of our grief denying culture (societal value), we simply repeat the pattern of ostracizing each other and ourselves (individual level) because we play into the denying, we fear challenging the dominant paradigm, the prevailing beliefs of the world around us.

Thus, though it seems so incredibly unfair, those having the grief experiences themselves, at the very moment they should be getting the most care, instead must muster up and advocate for change. Those having grief experiences themselves must break the pattern. No, it isn’t fair. No, it isn’t easy. But I have come to figure it this way: Hell, I'm ill at ease already anyway, so why not just go with it, lean into the dis-ease, and push for breaking the habits of our cultural denial!? Onward!!

How can we change it
One of the most important things we can do is to give voice to our grief. Refuse to be silent. Speak up, speak often, continue to speak about your grief experience over time. This might be verbal, but it also could be written or communicated through art of various mediums. Just giving expression in whatever ways possible, *that* is key.

One of the most important models we can provide is to visibly show the evolution of our story. When we first speak up about our grief, we may find our story to be very fact-oriented. We share the minute details like time and date of death, where it happened, how we found out, and other very factual information. But over time, our stories evolve to be less about facts and more about meaning making. We begin to talk about what the death of this person means to us, how our life has been impacted by death, what this death has meant to us in facing our own mortality.

This evolution of the story is crucial as it indicates that there isn't simple closure beyond the facts, but rather an on-going life -- YOUR life -- being LIVED as you express love and what is important to you. As we model this evolution for the people around us, I like to think they are then also given permission to share their stories, to experience evolution for themselves. We all begin to grow and change together in a network of common experiences instead of being isolated in fear and violence. We move to a place where self-care is community care AND community care IS self-care.

By giving expression to our stories, we are also able to more visibly see how ordinarily often death affects us human beings. As we come to terms with one death, we may encounter another death. Our experience must now evolve to incorporate multiple loss. This isn’t a sickness. This is a normal, ordinary part of being human. It is a skill that should be taught, but it doesn’t fit well into scholastic educational curriculums, so we end up learning it on death’s timetable or at the insistence of loss, encountering the lessons whenever grief happens.

It can be a radical thing to refuse to play the grief denying cultural game whenever it crops up. It's been a few years now, but there was a letter sent in and answered by good, old Dear Abby in which the writers asked Abby for advice about how to handle communications with a stillbirth mom in their office place. I was shocked at the time by what seemed and uninformed and uneducated answer given by Abby, and we did a full article about it in the Loss Journal at KotaPress back then.

Today, I’d like to address just a couple of the points that came up from this national exchange in Dear Abby’s playground. One of the things the co-workers had a problem with was the fact that the stillbirth mom had a photo of her child on her desk. Another thing they had a problem with was communicating with the mom because they said she was “mean and gossipy." Of course Abby told them they were right, that the photos were “inappropriate,” and that the boss should deal with this “delicate” situation.

Have you ever read a more grief denying exchange?! So here is a woman in extreme grief, hurting, feeling alone, trying to integrate all that has happened in her life. And she is calling out to communicate, to express her story, have it be visible. It's just *possible* that if she were given space for that expression, maybe over time, she and her co-workers would have benefitted from both self- and community-care.

But instead, the woman’s photo of her child is abhorred and stigmatized as "making people uncomfortable” because they have to face the reality of death and dying when they’d rather participate in denial, keep their heads down, and work work work. Capitalist productivity over humanity. A-huh.

And, you know, if you were ignored and abhorred – if your children were abhorred like this – do you think you would be mean, angry, difficult to work with, have vindictive feelings towards all around you? I know I sure would – and it would take me a long time to do the self-tending work necessary to work through all the layers of that grief denying crap that was laid upon me!

Abby and the co-workers missed a chance to participate in the solution and instead continued the cycle of abuse and isolation. There are several things that would hold a much more productive truth for all involved, if only Abby or the co-workers would have taken the time to educate themselves – or if the mom (albeit already burdened with her process) had had a model by which advocacy and expression would take precedent over isolation and "closure."

First, office policy would dictate the display of photos, period. If the other co-workers are allowed to have photos of their children displayed, then guess what? The bereaved mom would be allowed to have her photos, too. If she is singled out and prevented from showing her photos, it is at best censorship, and at worst it is discrimination.

If the other workers have a problem seeing the photo – and if the mom is having trouble adjusting being back at work – well those are indeed the boss’ problems. But it is not the boss’ job to simply address this “delicate” issue by shutting it all down. Instead, this boss plays a role in acknowledging this is a real, every day, human, ordinary issue, and everyone on his/her staff needs extra support and education in the areas of death, dying, and bereavement. They all need sensitivity training. A review of their bereavement leave and insurance coverage for mental health support for grief experiences needs to be done. And it sure sounds like they all need to build teamwork skills.

Sadly, in our grief denying culture, Abby doesn’t suggest any of this, the boss probably won’t do anything but censor the photo, maybe fire the mother, and the mother may be on her own to find support for figuring out how to translate grief, isolation, maybe anger into advocacy.

It is my hope that this article can be a prompt that opens discussion, an opportunity to shift our perspectives, a call to action for all of us to learn and begin advocating for change. I wish it could start with multi-media, pop culture, icons like Dear Abby and with bosses in every workplace across the world. But unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen. They will not be “saviors” or even leaders in this realm. And so, though I know grief experiences are the very moments we all need the most help ever, I call on us all, after getting whatever support we need first, to also seek education and active mentors who can then help you step into the role of advocate. We need you. None of us in this world will get out alive, so really, we need you.

Miracles to you,

                    * If you are interested in more on why I put the word "closure" in parenthesis, you 
                    might check out Nancy Berns book "Closure: the rush to end grief and what it 
                    actually costs us."

                    ** “Grief Denying Society” was a phrase I first heard in a presentation by 
                    Molly Greist, Stone Sculptor, Bainbridge Island, WA.

[Original version published in KOTA: Knowing Ourselves Thru Art, August 22, 2007]

Monday, May 15, 2017

Shepherding the chaos into some form of expression

When grief comes, it can seem like the meaning of everything changes. Time seems to go fast or slow. Our jobs seem meaningless in the aftermath. Our priorities have changed. Relationships evolve or fall away. As a very specific example, I was an artist before the death of our child, and after his death, the value of art even seemed to change. Frankly, grief can make everything seem like chaos.

In doing outreach with bereaved parents in my early grief years, I came across variations on this chaos everyday. One parent had been a prolific writer prior to the death of his child. After grief's arrival, he felt he wasn't doing justice to his child's death because he couldn't write a thing about it. The previously prolific writer mentioned that he had only been able to write emails since his child died, but nothing else. I encouraged him to consider those emails! Emails can be a form of journaling if you ask me. Back in the early 2000's, we even published a memoir under our KotaPress imprint that was partially made of email communications a woman had while she was facing cancer and treatments.

And so, if you are using the net as a form of support after grief's arrival, look at what you are writing in that medium. Those posts and emails can easily be the expressions of memoir writings or prose pieces. Maybe those are the first draft of a book to come. Maybe they are completed pieces themselves. Or the beginnings of support themed articles you might want to publish someday.

Who knows? But one thing I try to offer those wrestling with creativity in grief's aftermath is this:

Practice being open to expression in whatever form it comes!

Now, I'm not saying that all our creativity in the face of grief will turn into something public or that all emails will turn into books. We may not want to do anything like that with the expressions that come. But I am saying that the initial expressions after grief's arrival can come in a variety of ways. Don't discount any of those ways!

Because grief creates the potential for everything to change, so too can forms of expression change in grief's wake. We may or may not use our old medium for creating. We may discover new mediums for these experiences. It is okay to let expression come in whatever form, to whatever degree, at whatever pace.

Let yourself be tender as you shepherd all grief's chaos into some form of expression!

Miracles to you,

Friday, May 12, 2017

Oh the crowds that gather in my head!

The psychology of the crowds of stuff inside my head would make your head explode if you tried to wrap your brain around it all. When I try to wrap my own head around the crowds, it usually results in something like, oh I don't know, an implosion into a little pile of ashes.

So sometimes I try to completely escape my head all together. I do this meditative exercise which I'll offer you today as a sort of creative prompt if you want to try making up your own process:

  1. I sit at the edge of the ocean or some body of water that is much larger than I am. 
  2. I stare for a long time at the huge amounts of water. The crowds of water. 
  3. I imagine the BEing of water looking back at me. Like imagining the entire huge body of water is the body of a BEing, conscious, with character and personality.
  4. I imagine how small I must look to the huge BEing of water. 
  5. I imagine it looks back at the small speck of me. Just a speck of a girl, sitting there, trying to consider the immensity of it.
  6. And then I imagine that I become the water, looking back at my speck of a self. 

And you know what happens? Like a FLASH, the crowds of my speck of a head become so small that they require almost no effort to see, map, deal with, whatever. And I come to realize the following:

  • I am just being. 
  • The Water is being. 
  • We are each other. 
  • There is no crowding. 
  • No crowds of anything anyone anywhere. 
  • And there is immense space again, inviting me to rest.

Often this process allows me to sleep a bit. Or to recognize that my speck of a physical body wants to stretch into that immense space of Water BEing. Or things just quiet down enough for me to see there is no immediate emergency, nothing is on fire, and my breath is breathing me. Okay, no imploding into a pile of ashes today then!

It seems the psychology of the crowds of my head are best seen from way up above -- from a place where it all looks like specks on the horizon. From a perspective where the crowds don't look like snarled monsters, but instead look like a thing of beauty. Perspective, I love you.

So what about you? What helps you shift from the snarling crowds to the immense body of water BEing state?


[Original version published in Radical Creativity, Saturday, May 10, 2008]

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Exploring balance and our own meaning making...

As sunny season here in the Pacific NW gears up and the days begin to fly by, I'm reminded again how important it is to keep my balance. Grief especially takes its toll on our bodies, minds, and spirits in ways that can knock us off balance. There are times when grief is so all consuming that it can seem to just eat up days and days. I find it especially important then to keep the idea of balance front and center in my life.

Balance doesn't mean making everything "perfect." It doesn't mean "getting better" (whatever that actually is!). Rather, balance simply means being mindful of your whole being and looking at the whole picture of needs.

For example: Our minds spin when grief hits. We can't make sense of this new world without our loved one or whatever our loss circumstances are. Many people need to have brain input to be able to make new meaning of life again. But at the same time, grief taxes our sense of concentration, so it can be hard to read or pay attention. So balance between needing new information and lack of concentration might be:

  • Take it slow. 

  • Read things in sound bite form. 

  • Open a book or magazine to a random page and just read one sentence. Mull that sentence over for a whole day, and see what comes of it for you.

As always, be as gentle as you can with you. Take whatever pace and time you need.

As part of your exploration of what balance means to you, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Though you may not have anyone in your immediate network who can be of support, please know that there are good people out here doing awesome work, willing to communicate with you and offer support. Try one of these:

And you are always welcome to check out my personal, small group Grief + Creativity classes and sessions to join us for support, too!

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, July 13, 2007; resources updated April 2017]

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Grief and Showing podcast

This podcast is exploring how we show up during grief experiences. Showing up, just as a human in general, can be challenging, but when you add grief experiences to the mix, what happens? In this podcast we're exploring:
  • What are the rules that seem to dictate how we show up or don't during grief experiences?
  • What does it mean that we get only 3 days bereavement leave?
  • What does it mean to "get closure" when we are still alive and living our experiences?
  • How do we show up without having to intersect with "perfection"?
  • What happens when we show up even when we're not or the situation is not what might be deemed "perfect"?
  • How do we show up even if it is scary to do so?
  • How do we keep ourselves practicing ways to show up?
  • Metaphors abound in artmaking or writing or showing work or publishing.
  • When we show up, we enter into self-care, AND begin to intersect with others so that self-care truly IS community care.
  • When we show up to tend our path, we allow other people space to show up, too.
  • When we show up to tend our path, we create sacred community space, too.

Thanks for listening!
From another radical grandma trying to shape the world we are in,
If you like what you hear, 
please click the tip jar to support
our grief+creativity efforts.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Stick the to breath, next step

It's like a mantra now. Those who know me are sick of hearing it.

It's a practice, not a perfect.

When it comes to chronic health stuff, this most definitely applies. When it comes to being an artist, this most definitely applies.

I'm not thrilled with this piece here. Perfection is a long ways off with this one (with every one, if I'm honest!). But the point of it isn't perfection anyway. The point is to remind myself that it is all practice. I am worthy of taking things one day at a time, one moment at a time, one brush stroke at a time, next breath, next step. I am worthy of continuing to make art. Even when it isn't perfect (it never is!). Even when I don't feel perfectly healthy (chronic means I never am really!).

Rejections come with the territory of being an artist and writer. It had been a good year since I worked up any submissions or was published in anything. So I started pulling submission guideline notifications into my Facebook feed recently. That puts opportunities in my face, and reminds me to take chances!

And in the past couple of weeks, I've gotten two rejections. One a standard form letter that many others probably got, too. The second, a little more personal with reason why the art doesn't fit and suggestion for how to try again with something a little more inline with what they want. So oddly enough, my idea that "the only antidote to rejection is trying again" comes right into play with the "rejector" giving me "try agains" right in the rejection. :) Very funny how we manifest stuff.

AND there was also one acceptance and publication in Issue 50 of Haiku Journal so it wasn't all rejection!

One thing I do notice about rejection is that it touches on something akin to grief in me. I shut down completely after my son died because I felt rejected as a woman and mother -- the Universe itself rejected my submission to be a woman and a mother. It took years to work through that. And so it also seems all these little rejections touch on the nerves of that big one somehow. I use the noticing of that in each experience to be a little raised flag, waving, calling out to me saying, "Hello!?! Over here. Do a little tending, will ya?!" And I remind myself in that space about practice, not perfect AND next breath, next step.

Another aspect of the "sticking to it" for me, is to practice finding gratitude in my disappointment. Here are a few quick gratitudes that generate for me in this practice:

  • I'm sooooo grateful that I have access to the internet to find things like guidelines and to email inquiries. 
  • It's an amazing universe where there is always another publication to try after a rejection. 
  • And bless the editors of all these places because I know how much time it takes to sift through it all and try to make "objective" decisions in a world where there is no objectivity ever. It's all subjective. We are all subject to our own personalities and experience and such. And that's an interesting facet of being human.

And hey, look, life is up and down for us all. For those of us dealing with chronic health stuff, mental and physical, on top of everyday life, well, it is a challenge. But I keep reminding myself that we can practice habits that support us. And here's one:

If you are looking for a cool, interesting way to experiment with keeping yourself prompted and for getting an energy boost each day, try the free app BoosterBuddy:

I know it can seem a little odd to suggest you buddy up with an animated raccoon, but I swear its daily reminder to take care of my basics and keep taking next breath, next step have been so helpful recently!

Hope you, too, keep taking next breath, next step today, Loves.
From the radical grandma,

[Original version published in Radical Creativity June 24, 2008;
updated May 2017 to give update and new app resource tip]

Sunday, April 30, 2017

To roar. Or not.

After awhile I begin to feel that, whoever I am, is stuck inside all these layers. The letters of language are used to try and be heard. The network of pain that cascades thru the body, making the eyes so sensitive that looking at or into normal light levels just hurts, is all too real. In the meantime, under all that is this sort of adult who continues having ideas, impulses to create, sparks for connecting art to heART.


Had Pinky and the Brain streaming in the background one day, and it struck me that they are sort of projections of the mind. The same mind. Flip sides of one mind. They work together to make a whole. A dysfunctional whole, but still. NARF. Sometimes the roar comes and other times it is just a narf.

Sometimes my hands shake, making drawing or even cooking, messily impossible. Often it seems related to iron levels, but there are so many chronic issues going on in this one bod of mine that it is hard to tell. And even trying to DO something is weird. Sometimes the something works. Sometimes it doesn't. Much as I think I am commanding my health (Brain), sometimes my body is just sitting there all Pinky-like going NARF.

It is a weird thing. To be raised in a modern western world that implicitly and explicitly tells you that you should have command, you need to have discipline, you have to become an expert, if you want to be taken seriously and make a mark, you have to...have to...have to. The myths of being the commander. When the truth is that being human is a damn messy NARF most of the time.

I mean sure, you can put in 100,000 hours on some obsession you have and learn a lot from it. I get a lot out of making more and more art, putting more and more hours into the practice. But my shaky hands bop in now and again to say, "Hey Commander! NARF!" I'm not poo-poo'ing process or learning or passion or spending your time doing what moves you. I'm just saying the complicit stuff of the modern western world that turns that all into experts and "six-figure years" and such...well...NARF.


Was reading Improv Wisdom and one of the prompts she offered along the way was to "count on insecurity." Isn't that great? Count on it. Don't try to beat it into submission. Don't try to expert your way around it. Stop trying to get to the perfect place where it resolves and never surfaces again. Rather, count on it. Count. On. It. Count on insecurity. What a novel and creative idea. Count on the NARF.


Stress. Whether coming from "real" situations or coming from my insecurity (that i now count on), stress has a damn fucked up way of messing with me. The chronic pain returns. The stomach does weird things. The shakes shake. If we had the money or an insurance company/provider that actually cared, and we tested things consistently around the experiences I have with stress, just guessing, but I think stress may relate to much of what goes on with me.

I find it difficult to give words to what is happening to me physically, especially after going to great lengths to communicate w supposed caregivers who then say everything is "normal" and begin to treat me in a dismissive manner or as if I'm a drug seeker. Especially annoying given that as of the other day, I've been sober for a solid 20 years. But whatever, dismiss me. NARF.

And one begins to understand the frustration of so many chronic fellow beings. You see every provider your insurance will cover and none help. For that you fork over a day of work, cost of ferry and gas and parking, and a $55 copay. For nothing in the end. And if you find someone who might be able to help but insurance won't cover them, you literally ponder groceries or the cost of trying yet another supposed caregiver. After awhile, you just sort of feel tired and defeated and actually begin to wonder if maybe you are crazy. Except that one side of your face is swollen and you have hives under your eyelid. Those are hard to just conjure out of nothing...NARF.

Not that I don't aim to do best care possible for myself, but stress, in general, and these specific examples, seems to affect how my body reacts, takes up nutrients, gets rest, etc. I think. Total guess. Could be completely full of shit there. But guessing.

Mind you, I know it is a privilege to do anything these days:

  • even just having a doctor, any doctor
  • having access to clean water (Flint, MI, USA still doesn't have access to clean water!)
  • enough to make the ends meet so we can buy fresh veg and fruit regularly

I notice these things. I notice how being able to "afford" in this modern western world is a huge piece of the experiences humans have. Affording doesn't buy us out of racism, sexism, disability-phobia or chronic illness, but with enough "affording" those bastard show themselves a lot less in the ways we are able to care for ourselves, or not, in the choices we have, or don't. Or at least we are able to make choices even in the face of those bastards.

I'm thinking here of how last year we had the privilege of coverage to "afford" to get my husband's eye exam and new glasses. Our "affording" allowed him to see properly again and be able to continue driving, etc. But our "affording" could not buy us out of the health-corporate-mindset that targeted my husband as a black man, scared him w narratives of how he could go blind, bullied him into multiple additional tests that he didn't need just so they could bilk more from our insurance. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him, everything came back totally normal. And still the next year, for coverage, we were bumped to more expensive "affording" because of those tests, my hub was now see as more risky. We "afforded" the privilege of caring for his chronic eyesight loss, got the glasses, could make the option to get what he needed to see again. BUT we could not buy ourselves out of the targeted racism that was aimed at my hub insidiously within the health"care" system.

It's bullshit.


I don't know. No answers really. No resolutions, no tidy answers, just continued process. ❤ Just noticing all the times that, even with my best efforts, stress still steps in here, yelling, "Hey Commander! NARF!!"


Thanks for hanging in there with the ramblings of another radical grandma trying to figure it out,

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Transformation Talk on grief, creativity, alternative paradigms, and more...

Had a wonderful opportunity to connect with Alana Sheeren when she was hosting Transformation Talks, and our conversation is out on the interwebs for you to watch any time you'd like. Just click the image below to go to YouTube and listen in:

We talked about so much, including:

  • our son's stillbirth and how his name KOTA turned out to mean Knowing Ourselves Thru Art
  • how grief + creativity were immediately linked for me
  • grief + creativity education opportunities being continually offered
  • creative prompts, narrative therapy, and other tools for breaking open the definition of creativity
  • learning to find your own heARTmaking way
  • alternatives to traditional "slay the dragon" and "closure" paradigms
  • externalizing: "I am bereaved" vs "I have had a bereavement experience"
  • letter writing in narrative practice lets you continue the conversation
  • experiences at Mister Rogers Neighborhood
  • and more...

Couple updates since this Talk first aired:

  • Cath and I have added a whole bunch of lovely faculty to the Certification in Creative Grief Support program, offering you new content and team facilitation for each session. We are now offering the course multiple times per year with sessions starting in March or September. To read all about our continuing education for helping professionals, click here to see our site.
  • If you are personally having a grief experience and want to explore creative approaches with me, I now offer multiple opportunities for small groups and individuals. To learn more about the classes and session I offer, click here to see my site

Miracles to you,

[This talk originally aired on August 14, 2013.]

Monday, March 27, 2017

Podcast: Grief and Storytelling

Do you think of storytelling as plot, character, denouement? Storytelling in reference to the grief experience can be so much more than form! Today's podcast explores how we can break open the idea of storytelling to understand our experiences for ourselves, but also to have our experiences move beyond the cultural obsession with, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that! What happened?" where we all get stuck in just the death story, the death moment. Thanks for listening!

Love and Reiki,
from my radical grandma self to your radical self <3

If you like what you hear, 
please click the tip jar to support
our grief+creativity efforts.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Podcast: Grief and Invisibility (pondering #DayWithoutAWoman strike)

For International Women's Day and as I pondered the #DayWithoutAWoman strike, I ended up deciding to launch what I hope to develop into a GriefAndCreativity Dot Com podcast. Today's topic is "Grief and Invisibility" as it came up for me around thinking and dreamstate leading into this strike day. Thank you for listening.

Click here to stream.

Love and Reiki,
from my radical grandma self to your radical self <3

If you like what you hear, 
please click the tip jar to support
our grief+creativity efforts.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Books and the art that can come from them...

What do you do with books you don't want anymore? It's great if the library will take them or the used bookshop. But what if they don't want them? I have the answer:


:) That's exactly what I did with these books. Here are the front and back covers after alterations:

And here's a glimpse of what I did on the inside of each:

But the even cooler thing about doing these kinds of physical, altered books is that you can do high res scan of various aspects of the pieces and then make even more artworks. Here are a few of the pieces I've done in that process, and these are now available in my gallery as stickers, totes, journals and more:

This one is an over saturated, highly detailed scan of one of the paperdolls on the back cover, worked up in PSE as its own solo piece. You'll find it over in the gallery here.

This digital composite was from a shrine series and it incorporates the door featured on one of the front covers of the altered books. It actually incorporates high res scans and photos of 8 different pieces I created along the way. The shrine outline and composite was all done in PSE and this finished piece is in the gallery over here.

So can you see how you can start with old or unwanted books to create art? Then scan or photograph and make even more art? What ideas are sparked for you seeing this? Are you already picturing books that you'd been considering clutter which now might morph into art? What other items do you have around the house that you might turn into art?

Go play! Have fun!

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, June 2009]

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Keep on WAKING up!

Look. None of this is new. But if the chaos that is the US is just hitting you now, all I can say is: Great and keep on WAKING the fuck up, Loves.

It is not anti-racist to say, "I don't see color." We need to dismantle and totally tell racism to fuck off. It will never be okay to invoke hate toward Muslims after the hate committed upon our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Orlando, after the Unconstitutional "ban" that is being waved in all our faces. Fuck off to homophobia. Fuck off to the hijacking of any religion so that hate is allowed, encouraged. Fuck off to anyone who thinks their one religion has all the "right" answers and everyone else is, not only "wrong," but justifiably harmed. Fuck off.

If you don't know how to handle cognitive dissonance, that is on you! Get a therapist. Sign up for emotional intelligence training. Sign up for anti-racist training. Seek out education from sources like SURJ, ACLU, SPLC. Something. DEAL WITH YOUR SHIT.

And most of all, here in this USofA Chaos State, if you think not voting is taking a stand, I implore you to reconsider, to at least vote local races where it can make the most difference. We need to get local scenes changed in 2018 and 2020 so that when the next census takes place, we have some hope of reversing the gerrymandering that has gone on with voting districts. Please get used to bugging the fuck out of your government on all the issues that matter to you. It is not rocket science to figure out how to have justice and equity. We don't even have to figure it out the "how" of it. There isn't any experimenting that has to be done. Because guess fucking what? Other countries in this fucking world have ALREADY done it. We know how to do it. We just don't fucking want to. And if you are here, if you are one that doesn't want to, check your shit. If you are one that wants to, but doesn't know how, start by bugging the fuck out of your government reps, senators, and local officials:
and go to your State's website to find your local folks - it will look something like this:

Last thing I'll say today (though you will hear me repeating it OFTEN): If  you still think social justice issues do not intersect with grief, wake up, please. How in the hell can anyone look at what is going down and not see the GRIEF, not just on individual level, but communal and cultural. Mosques burning. Five year olds handcuffed because they are a "threat" and mothers separated from their children from whom food is withheld for 20 hours. A 12 year old shot while playing in a play ground a mere 2.5 seconds after police arrive on the scene. This is a fuck load of grief, folks. Wake up. Time to start dealing with our shit.

Reiki to any and all eyeballs who come across this.
This radicalized grandma will speak to my last breath in the hope we keep each other AWAKE.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hard truths, diapers, and dreams

[Originally published June 2016 - as the social justice fight continues, this is as relevant today.]

The call to social justice work comes out of significant experiences I had as a child and all the ways, as an adult, I've seen people in the midst of grief experiences having to simultaneously navigate oppression. People will tell me grief is grief, done, and to stop bring social justice issues into it. But I tell you that in my most horrific grief after the death of my son, I know now, clearly, how privileged I was. I am white; we were middle-ish class; we had healthcare at the time; we had a life that allowed for us to make and foster connections for support; we had ways to become self employed and not be beholden to any boss or capitalist exploitation. AND I've learned over time how very privileged that was.

It is impossible to look black mothers in the face after the deaths of their children at the hands of police and just say it is grief like all others or that grief has no color blah blah blah. Their grief is political. Their grief is part of a social justice movement. Why? Because they don't get to just grieve and have experiences like we had in our privilege. They must simultaneously navigate the criminalization of their children all over the media so that the police can justify why children are dying. It IS political.

Yes, I am remembering that all the people killed in Orlando are children of someone. Yes. Of course. But that doesn't mean we get a bypass on the political and social justice issues that come up, too. It's a nice sentiment to say we shouldn't politicize the deaths of someone's children, but I'm guessing -- just a guess -- you go listen to the videos and read this post and this post and this post of people speaking for themselves -- but I'm guessing that most LGBTQ+ people and families will tell you it IS political.

And there are so many experiences of grief and social justice intersections, that I know we can get overwhelmed with trying to process it. This isn't a woulda/coulda/shoulda, but rather just a raising of awareness that we are each doing what/as we can *and* there is always a bigger picture. Also an awareness that focusing on one issue is not meant to take away from another or to privilege one over the other, but rather to be aware there is always a bigger picture. As @Joannathangiah shared in one of her beautiful heART-works which you can see by clicking here:

"Just because someone is drawing attention to one oppressed group doesn't mean they are ignoring others."

This is tender space. I get it. Not trying to make one bereaved parent or caregiver "wrong" while others are "right" on this. AND I'm saying that even in my worst grief experience with the death of my own son, I came to a point where that was no longer a bypass for checking my privilege and getting real about the fact that *everything* happens within a context. Of course we are individuals having these experiences, but always always always within a kinship system:

We cannot be objective. We are all mobile discourses coming to the table of these experiences:

I'm not trying to politicize everything. It is already political. I'm not trying to be depressing or discouraging. But I am trying to get us all on the same page so we can take account of what is really happening. We need to do that so we can be present in a way that is meaningful; so that actual needs can be addressed. We cannot positivity-police ourselves through grief nor be of service to others if we are positivity-policing their expressions and experiences. In fact:

Just consider it. You don't have to like what I'm saying. You may not be in a place in your own grief experience to have the bandwidth to be present with these ideas. That's okay. I'm sharing for those who are interested. For those who know there is more to this grief stuff than "keep calm and...". For those who are at a space where exploring the intersectionality of grief experiences and social justice makes sense.


Something I saw today out of the #StateOfWomen was a share from Desiree Adaway about how a significant cause of depression for low income women is lack of access to clean diapers for their children.

Re-read that. 

Let that sink in.

A source of their depression is lack of access to clean diapers.

Dear G-d. I know modern Western capitalist culture is screwed, but this...breaks me. How do we just go on when this reality comes to light? For me, I need to take action. Find out how this is addressed in our community. I'm asking our food bank if this is issue that needs to be addressed here. If so, how best to address? We don't have a lot. But we do make $10 or $20 donation here and there as we can. I will be glad to spend that on diapers for the food bank if that will help. 

How much could shift if we all did things like this wherever and whenever we can?

ADDENDUM: After posting this, I came to learn in the discussion thread on Desiree's page that there is a national project looking at and addressing this issue. I had no idea. Thank you, creative and wonderful people. Now others of us can get involved!


Random dreamscape:

She came into the public library and told me she sold the house we were living in with it being on the market for only an hour. The pit of my stomach sank as I realized I could pack our stuff, but I could not pack our garden. That, we would simply lose. 

As I walked down the street back toward the home that was just sold out from under us, I sobbed for the peas we would be forced to abandon, knowing they would wither and die. New people would not be moved in quickly enough to salvage them. 

As I walked, I realized the sidewalk was just continuing to stretch out before me, making my walk endless. There was no way to get back. I tried to get my backpack off so I could find my phone and call Hawk. But as I was doing so, a man rushed me in attack. As I felt my body hitting the ground, I realized I would not get to hear Hawk's voice. 

In waking life, I began screaming in my sleep. Hawk says I was all gooseflesh when he heard me yelling and woke me. 

Can I just tell you that I love having those kinds of dreams and discovering myself back here in the waking world with Hawk gently shaking me saying, "Kara, Kara, Kara, wake up."

Okay, well, enough babble. Reiki to all eyeballs who come across this.
One of those radicalized grandmas

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Five Little Letters: g-r-i-e-f

These five little letters supposedly cover a big human experience: g-r-i-e-f.

As mortal humans, it is inevitable that we will encounter grief. Whether death or non-death related, grief is part of the human experience. Supposedly these five little letters cover the experience. They are to convey what we each experience. They supposedly encompass the full range of the life that unfolds in the face of loss. These little letters are to signify a whole story. Individually. Culturally. Really?

While we are all individuals having grief experiences, we are also always within "kinship systems" (Ulanov, Madness & Creativity). So while our grief experiences unfold for us individually, we are simultaneously navigating grief's path amid community, in social relationship, in social contracts we have with each other, and in, ultimately, a culture of grief.

How can we use creativity to break out beyond these five little letters? How do we enter our stories creatively to help shape and re-shape the culture of grief so that we, as a human family, can hold the diversity of experiences that humans have?

In this presentation, from March 2015 Crossroads Conference, I had the opportunity to share my ideas with approximately 500 people in this large session, and then to more intimately explore afterward in a salon workshop that hosted 50 people. The 7 minute video here is from the large session, and in it, I'm sharing my own story of our son's birth / death and offering creative prompts for beginning to get and stay creative with your own story, whatever your circumstances.

For more about Kara see

For more about Creative Grief Education see

For more about WGF and the Crossroads Conference see

Friday, January 13, 2017

Tools vs. Prescriptions

Law of Attraction. Abundance. The Work. Logotheraphy. The Secret. The Tao. The Way. Meditation. Matrix. Creating Your Own Reality. Poetry Therapy. Art Therapy. Gestalt. The Hero's Journey.

There are a million tools in the world. And depending on the situation at hand, you may choose to take out one or the other of these tools to use them for a period of time. They can be extremely helpful. Life changing even. And so it is natural to want to share these tools with others.

Here's the hitch though:

Once you begin to share them as prescriptions rather than tools,
you move from compassionate enthusiasm to dogmatic, colonizing mind set.

When dogmatic law comes into play, we find divisiveness, the beginning of disrespect, violence, patriarchy, imperialism, misogyny. Organized religions or movements often fail their constituents in the most urgent moments of need precisely because dogmatic law is offered as "cure" rather than compassionate tools being offered as "care."

Let me share a few examples to really clearly show you what I mean about all this.

*Situation One

There are two women who are not feeling well. Both are part of communities where people are exploring self development, Law of Attraction, etc.

One woman mentions her ills, and a friend replies with an offer to help her explore Louise Hay's "Heal Your Body" work to see if anything there seems to fit for the current situation. They work together looking at materials, seeing what might feel right to the woman in need, and they both come away feeling better having lived their practice of becoming more response-able.

The second woman mentions her ills, and a friend replies saying, "Oh, look at you creating drama as a way to make time to rest. You are attracting illness so you can have an excuse to take care of you!" The woman in need feels scolded, embarrassed, and is shamed into putting on the mask of "abundance" to seem "better." All sense of compassionate care has been lost to the imposition of a dictated cure. In other words, the dogma of the Law of Attraction has been used as a weapon, a judgment against the woman in need. And, in truth, no one feels better in this situation.

*Situation Two

There are two sets of bereaved parents trying to find their way through grief after the deaths of their children. Both families are part of communities where people are exploring spiritual development, alternative therapies, creativity. Both families struggle with the cascade of loss: death of child, impact on parenting other children, financial realities of death associated costs, not being able to just go back to work as "normal" and the realization of having been thrust into being wholly changed as people.

The first family seeks support from their community network as they begin to question their sanity, how to function in the world at large, the senselessness of it all. A friend introduces them to Byron Katie's "The Work" and helps them through the questions and self-exploration. The first question is simply, "Is it true?" The bereaved mother puts forth that she is a horrible mother and cannot function any more. The friend asks, "Is this true?" The mother says, "Yes!" The friend asks again, "Is this really true?" The mother thinks a bit longer this time. The friend prompts her to talk about what's in her mind. The mother reveals a myriad of ways she is a good mother, active member of her community, and discovers -- on her own terms -- that she is not horrible after all. She is just hurting and in need of support. She redefines her current situation for herself, and down the line she will create meaning out of the senseless, be open-hearted to others, and "The Work" becomes one tool she uses often to explore the shadows of grief.

The second family seeks support from their community network, too. When the mother speaks up about not being able to function any longer, she is told, "Everything happens for a reason. You cannot know God's purpose. And you have other children who need you now." In fact, she is told that someone recently saw Byron Katie using "The Work" with another bereaved parent, and Byron told the mother and everyone watching that you have to move on and let go of these things in order to be "normal" again. In this situation, the very same tool (and some others) were used as weapons against the mother. She is embarrassed and shamed into putting on the mask of a proper believer so she can appear "normal" again. Her needs have not been met. Meaning has been imposed upon her and her family. Absolutely no one is better off in the least!

Can you see what I mean about the difference between tools vs. prescriptions; the differences between care vs. cure? Whether we are officially caregivers or just family, friends, well-meaning community members, we have a response-ability to think through the ways we uses these tools. Many fortune cookie wisdoms are actually derived from ancient systems. If you are intrigued by some current tool, seek out its history. Learn all you can before you start handing out cookie cutter sound bites and imposing meaning on others. If you have previously only dealt in platitudes, seek out the full history and truth behind that trite bit. Don't just take a line out of the Gospel and toss it around anymore. Look up the context. Read what historians feel it meant in ancient times. Look at modern interpretations. Consider what the full weight of the words might be. Consider that line through the eyes of Jewish history, Islamic history, Christian history, Buddhist history, and modern New Age lenses. Does the meaning change?

It is never entirely possible to be objective. We are subject to our own perspectives. Subject to our own experiences. That's okay, but don't let that subjective view limit you and your interactions with others. Instead, use it as another tool. Share your story of how you use various tools and what they mean to you. But then actively listen as other people tell you of their experiences. Don't impose your uses and conclusions on them. Watch, without judgement, as they pick up tools and come to their own realizations. Support them in that experience. Know that your experiences might be different. That's okay. There is plenty of room for all of us. One does not have to win out or conquer the other. BOTH experiences can exist at the very same moment, equally valid.

In this way, all those tools I listed above can be useful. Utilitarian items available to any and all of us instead of imperial weapons of colonization we use to control one another. It is possible to live in peace. This is just one of many possible things to play with as you create that peace in your reality. Be willing to just stop, breathe, and ask yourself, "Am I offering a tool or a prescription?" Just witness how your world changes when you are willing to be that response-able.


Want to learn more? See info on the Certification in Creative Grief Support program by clicking here.

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, December 5, 2008
also published at The Creative Grief Studio blog in 2011]

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yes, it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Yes, I did get the chance to actually work at the Neighborhood!

I know it's really easy to make jokes about the pace and tone of the Neighborhood shows and materials they offer -- especially in a world today that is so fast paced and technology based. But I spent several years studying Fred Rogers' work and if you just take the time to really look, you'll see some incredible things:

  • his language of creativity; 
  • his advocacy for child development; 
  • his ability to see that while the outer world has changed, a child's inner life is still in need of safe and sacred space in which to grow. 
And even after his death, there are incredibly talented people who have worked with the Neighborhood from the start who are maintaining and nurturing the growth of all Fred's work. You can learn about their work at the The Fred Rogers Company.

So all the photos, I'm sharing today were taken by my mom who was equally excited about my working at the Neighborhood. :)

Photo left: The day my mom came on the set of studio A, we had the Neighborhood house set up. So she got to snap photos of me playing around on the set.

It simultaneously seems like a million years ago and just yesterday. During my three years at CMU in Pittsburgh, I was lucky enough to land an internship in PR and production at the Neighborhood under the mentorship of Hedda Sharapan. I got to work with David Newell (aka Mr. McFeely), Margy Whitmer on a few of the Let's Talk About It books, and doing some production assisting with Matt Meko, Adrienne Wehr, and Heather Arnet along the way. It was a most interesting time.

It's hard to explain how it was both thrilling and disillusioning to walk onto the set of the Neighborhood of Make Believe in studio A. It had always been an imaginary place. But here it was, brick and mortar, set artists touching up the painting of the path of rocks, the various puppets, seeing that Mister Rogers sneakers were actually a necessity in Make Believe because it was usually he, the one man, running from X the Owl's tree to behind the Castle to voice almost *all* the puppets himself!

I did a lot of different things while working there. One of the big thrills was the chance to play the Purple Panda at a few live events with David Newell when he did appearances as Mr. McFeely. There have been many, many people over the years who have gotten to play Panda, the most famous of which is probably Michael Keaton.

When I was there, Matt Meko played the Panda on the set a few times for filming. I vaguely remember an episode of him dressed in this same Panda suit (photo left) but with the addition of roller skates -- or was it inline skates? I can't remember now. But I remember it being pretty hilarious.

And let me just say that all the layers of that costume were HOT! I remember laying the pieces of it around the office to air it out and dreading any hot, summer day events. Can't imagine what it must have been like to be under the head of it with the hot lights in the studio -- I should ask Matt about that :)

For my part as Panda it was only live appearances which was great because there were always kids around who just flipped out at seeing Panda. My mom snapped this photo at one of the ice cream socials -- yes, that's me under there :)

One of my favorite jobs at the Neighborhood was getting to write with Hedda and Fred. He had his very unique way of speaking and writing. It really was like learning a different language. He had an understanding of the internal life of kids -- of people in general really. His language reflected this. While I was there, my mom found a copy of a 1970's book the Blue Cross had put out in partnership with the Neighborhood, aimed at helping kids understand everyday things. I remembered having a copy of it when I was a kid, but my mom said I wore the book till it had holes in it, so it was gone by then. But she found a copy of it at a garage sale for a nickel and snagged it for me. It was so exciting to see it again that I brought it into the office the next week. Left it with a note for Fred in his office asking if he'd sign it for me. He left me a little note back saying it was exciting for him to see it again after all those years, too.

When I was working there, the Neighborhood had been in production for 25 years. They were no longer producing 52 new weeks of shows a year, but were doing only something like 5 or 6 new weeks of shows annually. But they were also in production for a zillion other projects like the photos books in the series "Let's Talk About It", filming specials like "Fred Rogers Heroes", and the "Different and The Same" series in collaboration with Susan Linn, and more. So there was a lot of time spent in the offices, at a desk, in front of a computer, on the phone, or at the copier. While I was always amazed that this was a company where people actually stood, looking you in the eye, waiting for an answer to the question, "How are you today?" -- there were also definitely boring office moments. Thankfully, there were creative sparks like Marissa and Matt in the office, too. They often pounced upon unsuspecting employees with a bucket full of confetti! Matt snapped this Polaroid the day the two of them got me:

I will say that I loved when the Neighborhood shows were being filmed. Everything about being on the set, the Green Room, the jokes and play of the crew, the care and feeding of the fish :) Anyway, it just fun to be a part of it -- and mom snapped this photo of me honoring the fish!

All in all, it was an interesting time in life for me. I had spent my childhood with the Neighborhood, and now here I was becoming an adult in the Neighborhood. There was so much to learn. Hedda was a great teacher. Long lasting friendships were made. Matt and Heather are still a part of my everyday life. And I think my mom and I were both touched to get to connect with Fred in person. I'm sure we were just another couple people on his radar since he met so many people every single day. But my life as an artist, woman, and human being was materially changed by being able to chat with Fred about the sacred space between the Neighborhood filming and the kids watching. I've thought often about that idea. The space between what I create and the viewer who sees it. That space is hallowed. It can be discounted and disregarded, overlooked. BUT when both artist and viewer are aware and conscious of that space, it is a place that allows for miraculous growth and development. And Fred was the one who taught me about sacred space. For that lesson, I will always be grateful.

I don't know who took this last photo, maybe Matt or David. But that's moi, Fred, and my mom. It was such a luxury to get to spend that day with my mom on the set. I'm so glad I have these few snaps to mark its happening...

Anyway, that's my Neighborhood story!
Miracles to each of you!

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, March 20, 2008]

Monday, January 9, 2017


Sometimes looking at grief straight on is a difficult thing.  I think the idea of objectivity is myth in the best of circumstance (because I don't see how we can ever be anything but subject to our own culture, education, environ, etc), but when you throw grief in the mix, I think objectivity is downright impossible.  We are subject to what has happened to us.  We are subject to our own personal beliefs about grief and concepts like healing or integration.  We are subject to the impulses and (explicit or implicit) rules and measures of our environment like family of origin, spiritual support system, work place, geography, and more.

With all that distortion, I think sometimes the best counter to it is more distortion in a way.  When we can't look at grief straight on anyway, why not crick your neck, tilt your head, and look at it all sideways?!  Sometimes a metaphor is a good way to shift perspective, to gain an insight, to get curious about what is happening.

An example:
Sometimes when I sit in curiosity about what grief has done to my life, I see a big stain.  At first this idea really got to me. I was rose-tinting the past as if prior to grief my life had been some pristine, antique, sacred piece. And then someone put down their giant cup of coffee leaving my life stained, sticky, and a big phat mess. The truth is that nothing was pristine before either, but grief left me focused only on the stain.

It really is another metaphor that came into play to get me out of the twisted view of now living a ruined life.  Art itself came into play.  I began looking at canvas pieces I'd started and ended up hating.  A wrong blotch there, a slip in a cut out there, a lumpy icky texture there, an out-right stain I couldn't remove over here.  I had impulses to throw the canvases away.  I didn't want anyone to see how bad I was as an artist.  I had shame rise to the surface because:

  1. I was an untalented hack and 
  2. I was actually following a wasteful line of action in considering throwing away perfectly good canvases.

So I did my best to stop myself.  Breathe.  Put the canvases propped up across the room from myself and really sit and look at them.  The vile spewed from me.  Actually I eventually learned this vile was my own inner gremlins spewing at my own self! I was soooo not being gentle with self.  As I sat and let the vile spew, eventually I grew tired and kind of bored.  I had the impulse to get up and do something else, but I asked myself to just take another breath and keep looking.  I sort of zoned out after awhile, even feeling like I would fall asleep.  Then a little bounce of energy came, and I started to look at the canvases in a different way.  You know how you look at those 2D images and then suddenly your vision shifts and you see the 3D image embedded?  Like that.  Some shift happened.

I got up and sat closer to each canvas.  Turned it on its side, upside down, looked at the wrapped edges of them.  Eventually I started to see there was something else that could come out of these canvases.  Sometimes in re-working a new piece, I'd be working the stain into something new, too. Other times, the stain ended up so far in the background that it was foundation for the new piece built on top of it, but you could hardly see the original stains and pieces I'd hated.

As I explored this more and more with art, I found it to be true of canvas pieces, art journal pages, even digital landscape pieces.  I work layer by layer.  There are times I absolutely hate what I see in front of me.  It all feels stained and like there is nothing contributing to the whole here.  But I keep working it.  More layers, more integration, more dancing around and with the stains.  Eventually some whole reveals itself, and it begins to feel ... sort of done.

I say "sort of done" because even when I finish a piece and sell it, it never really feels done to me.  I let it go in that particular format at some point.  But usually I have a high res scan of that piece that sold, and I can take that into a digital landscape, re-work it, make new images from it.  You can see in the piece posted here today, it is totally new, *but* look at the shirt on this new GRRRRRL.  The image of the star crowned fairy on her shirt is from a canvas painting I did a couple of years ago. That same star crowned image was a part of a cookbook cover for a national group, too.

Grief is like this.  Not so much the stain I hate, that ruined some rose-tinted-pristine past I think I had. Rather it is one element layered amid all that I am. It is integrated into this full life I'm living. Sometimes it shows up in the foreground with some prominent element to share. Other times it is faded in the background, less seen, but contributing to the whole nevertheless.  And often it seems invisible to most because they are looking only at the top most social surface of me.  That's okay.  I don't need everyone to get it anymore.  Art is like that.  Some love it.  Some hate it.  Some have artists they love who can do no wrong.  Some are just hungry for as many new works as they can possibly feast upon...

Again, like grief.  There is no one single way to be with it, understand it, witness it.  Our experiences will be as individual as we are as unique human beings.

Understanding that helped me spew less vile most days.

And on the days when I do still spew vile, well, I think of it as playing with acid to create a layer on a new canvas.  It's just a step along the way.  I know now that I'll keep working the canvas till I come to some peace with it.

Hope you all are getting insights from your heART explorations, too.
Reiki to any and all who come across this!

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, November 22, 2011;
also published at The Creative Grief Studio blog 2011]

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Creative prompt: body map

click image to see full size...

Body Map 
creative prompt from Coach + heARTist Kara LC Jones
inspired by Arts For Social Change by Beverly Naidus

When my son died at birth, I quickly checked out of my body.  There was so much disappointment, so much grief, and feelings of how my body betrayed me and him entirely.  Later on when talking with a local law maker about getting a state law changed for stillbirth documentation, I was told to my face that I did not give birth to a child.  I was told I had a fetus and *it* was dead.  The law makers were trying to intimidate and shame me -- and other mothers like me -- into being quiet, leaving them alone, to cease our efforts in the fight for women's rights around all possible choices.  While I knew intellectually what they were doing, it was hard on me emotionally because I was still in a crisis of faith about how my body failed me.  With time, conscious processing, and art making, I've been able to explore these issues and try to find ways back into my Power.

So today's prompt is a share for you to explore your relationship with body.  Of course this could work for anyone, but I'm also offering this specifically to women who've had pregnancy or infant death losses.  Just seems to me that this kind of loss complicates our relationships with our bodies, and however empowered we felt prior to the death, there is some shake up with our bodies in grief's wake.  So here's how you can creatively explore this:

  • The first thing you need is the outline of your body or a body shape you feel represents you.  You can either:

     -Get large sheets of butcher paper on which you outline your real body, full size.  This can be a very powerful way to work because you are looking at your actual body shape.

     -OR you can do line drawings in a more representative shape -- click the image at the top of this post to see full size version.  You'll see that I used a very simple outline.  For me, this worked to show the plump, roundness of my body - and it also showed how dis-empowered I felt in my arms.  Empty arms idea.
  • Once you have your body shape, duplicate it three times.
  • Then consider how you feel/felt in your body

          1) at the moment of trauma,
          2) when in an unsafe environment, and
          3) when you feel like you are in a safe environment
  • Ask yourself what color represents each of these times?  Consider how your body felt in each of these times?  Are there areas that felt achy or soothed?  Are there words to represent various parts of your body?  What did the areas surrounding your body feel like?

If you look at the full size version of the image I included at the top, you can see how I played with the areas of my body that felt most affected to me.  The head, the heart, the stomach, and the womb.  You can see how the story of each of those areas changed over time.  You can see how the coloring and lighting changes from version to version.  You could optionally do a fourth body version to explore intentions you'd like to set for your body relationship going into the future.  All of this is just a way to map the story of body with which you are living, to make conscious, the things you may not have realized are at play.  Just try it and see what you discover.

If you do blog post to show results, please feel free to post comment here to share with us!

Miracles to each of you...

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, January 26, 2010]

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Privacy Policies & Disclaimers

Our mailing list or information gathered from our give-aways, mailing list/blog subscriptions + comments, or intakes will only be used for our own work within KotaPress / Grief & Creativity/ Mother Henna . We do not ever sell or rent lists or information to others. You will always see "unsubscribe" opt-out links at the bottom of our mailing list messages. Intakes are private under confidentiality agreement.

If you leave public comments that contain very personal information like street address, we may edit or delete to protect privacy. We reserve the right to refuse to post any comment we deem racist, sexist, or any other -ist on the planet.

When we do review books or products, we'll tell you in the review if anything was sent to us free for purpose of review or if we bought it personally. Many of the freebie books or cds are donated forward to local libraries or to support groups lending libraries or offered in blog give-aways.

All information presented on our websites, blogs, in readings or coaching, and in our printed and electronic materials are meant as information and do not in any way replace needs you may have for seeking other professional or medical advice or care.  Please take responsibility for your own best self-care!

Questions? Email