Dream Goddess

Dreamwork and expressive art were two powerful pathways through grief for me. Today the two came together as my dream group and I each created a mask to represent and honor our Dream Self. Here is my Dream Goddess:

Her lower face is midnight blue with gold filigree and her upper face is a cloudy sky. Her eyes are rimmed with gold in the way the ancient Egyptians rimmed theirs with khol. She has a jewel within a labyrinth for her third eye and wears stars and feathers in her hair. Her mouth is green, for she speaks only the truth of my heart (green is the color of the heart chakra).

She is made from a purchased plastic mask form decoupaged with scrapbook paper and embellished with acrylic paint, gold leaves, heart-shaped sequins, rhinstones, gold metallic marker, gold glitter glue, eyelash yarn, feathers and wire garland.

Plastic mask form: $3.99
Hot glue gun and glue sticks: $10.00
Embellishments: $3.00
Therapeutic Value: PRICELESS

While this was a more light-hearted project for me, mask making can be extremely therapeutic in processing grief. The first mask I ever made was a grief mask. I had a friend create a plaster mask of my face, which I painted and embellished. The journaling and dialogue work I did with that mask was very powerful for me. She became a container for my grief. It helps to be able to pull your feelings out into an object you can stand back and look at. It helps to separate your grief from your identity. Over time, I transferred more and more of my grief into the mask, allowing the mask to hold the pain for me when I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I also created an anger mask while I was grieving. I created it out of a brown paper grocery sack and crayons. I put on some angry music, put the mask on my head and stomped around the house yelling and roaring for about 20 minutes until I fell to the floor laughing. What a great venting process that was!

You can make masks out of paper plates, construction paper, sheets of colored foam, plastic or papier mache forms, plaster cast over a form, or sculpted clay. You can make a mask of your grief, any emotion, your inner healer, your inner child, an animal totem, your spirit guide or anything else you might think of. Use your imagination, tune into your feelings and see what comes out.

Afterward, you can put the mask on and look into a mirror. Speaking out loud, complete the sentence, “I am the one who….” over and over again until you can’t think of anything else to complete the sentence with. This is a great way to get in touch with what you are feeling deeply.

You can also do some journaling dialogue with the mask. Put the mask where you can look at it and with your dominant hand, write a question. Let the mask answer the question through your non-dominant hand (the one you don’t normally write with). Some great questions to ask are, Who are you? How do you feel? Why do you feel that way? How can I help you? What gift do you hold for me?

I hope you will enjoy exploring the magic of mask-making as a path to healing. I’d love to see what you create!

Wishing you peace on the journey…

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (Claire@DeepWaterLeafSociety.com)

Visit my website: http://www.deepwaterleafsociety.com/

The Changing Face of Grief

The morning after my Dad died, he came to me in a dream.

In my dream, my Dad is sitting in a chair with a large Tefla bandage on the upper right side of his head. His blue eyes are clear and twinkling and he’s wearing a sort of self-satisfied, cat-that-ate-the-canary grin. Without any words, he communicates to me that he’s been fixed up good as new. The damage from his right-hemisphere stroke and the debilitations of dementia he experienced in the last year of his life (and even longer than that, to a milder degree) have been healed. I smile and say, “Well, look at you, Dad!” I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I love him.

I am amazed at how differently this loss is affecting me compared to Cameron’s death nearly five years ago now. Cameron visited me in dreams, too. But at first, every time he visited my grief and anger were so powerful that I ended up pushing him away. I would awaken from those dreams full of pain and sadness. My dream of Dad left me filled only with peace. It puzzles me a bit how unemotional I have been about my Dad’s death. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, but I have been giving it a lot of thought. People offer me condolences and I feel like there’s no consoling needed.

Recently, as I was perusing other blogs on the theme of grief, I came across this post called “Good Grief,” which contains some good, basic information about grieving. The post includes a list of things that can affect a person’s response to a loss. I can see how some of the ideas presented there have applied in my own experiences of grief.

Anticipatory grief, for example, happens when death is anticipated over a long period of time due to illness or other circumstances. The reaction to an expected death is very different than the reaction to a sudden, unexpected death. It doesn’t necessarily mean the grief is lessened, but the shock is lessened. There is a level of anticipation or expectation that we will outlive our parents, but we don’t expect to outlive our children. The difference in feeling about these two deaths is partly because of that, but it’s more than that, too. With my Dad, I think my grieving happened before he passed. I felt more sadness in watching his brilliant mind fade away than I did at the passing of his body, which, at the end, seemed only a shell of him anyway. I had some anticipatory grief with Cameron’s death, too. He’d been struggling with addiction for years and I kept waiting for something terrible to happen. Yet, I was not prepared for his unexpected death in the county jail. I thought that there, of all places, he’d be forcibly protected from his self-destructive addiction. When the detectives from the jail came to tell me he was dead, the shock was incredible. While there was anticipatory grief with both my Dad and my son, in the end I expected and even hoped for my Dad’s passing while I resisted the idea of Cameron’s death right up to the moment I learned of it.

Another thing that impacts the grief experience is the relationship you had with the person who died. I was certainly much closer to my son than I was to my Dad. Even though I had been a caretaker for my Dad for the last several years, it was more out of necessity than closeness. Prior to the decline of his and my Mom’s health, I really didn’t see my folks much. Even though I love my Dad, my life was very separate from his life. Cameron and I, on the other hand, were extremely entangled – probably unhealthily so. I believe it is called co-dependence. So his death left a gaping hole in my own sense of identity. There was also a lot of unresolved business with Cameron, where with my Dad I felt I had no loose ends, no grievances, nothing I felt guilty about. Cameron’s death left a lot of things unsaid and undone. Over time, since his death, we have had an opportunity to resolve all those issues and to heal our relationship so that now I can think of him with love and with peace in my heart. But in the beginning, there was only pain and guilt and anger. So I guess it’s easier to let go of my Dad because there’s no baggage there.

One more thing the post mentions is that what you’ve learned about loss in the past will inform any future experiences of grief. This certainly seems true in my case. Cameron’s death and all the amazing experiences that followed have completely transformed my understanding of and feelings about death. Where before I supposed (or at least hoped) that death was not a final ending, I now know it without any doubt at all. I have had too many amazing communications with Cameron since he passed to think of him as “dead.” His passing also taught me that the bond of love survives the apparent separation of death. It not only survives, but becomes stronger and healthier. My sense of death now is that it is a return to our true soul state, while our adventures here on Earth are temporary challenges—learning and growing experiences. Rather than grieving my Dad’s passing, I can celebrate his homecoming and know that our hearts remain connected.

Wishing you peace on the journey…

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (Claire@DeepWaterLeafSociety.com)

Visit my website: http://www.deepwaterleafsociety.com/