My Head Hurts explored grief beyond that which stems from the loss of a person. In this talk chaired by Michael Bassett, the speakers shared their experiences of grief:
Artist, Jim Lockey spoke of ‘feeling orphaned’in the seeming conflict of being both an artist and a Christian, through the suspicion of a liberal art world towards churchgoers. He accepted the feelings of loneliness and loss that ensue. The latter is reflected in his work Boat, also exhibited at Normal? There he comments on the ‘entropy of all things’ by constructing and setting sail in a cardboard boat which inevitably disintegrates.
Occupational Therapist Rayya Ghul relayed the grief experienced by her refugee parents through geographical changes and cultural shock. Her German mother’s way of coping was to enact an elaborate, traditional German Christmas every year, even changing the curtains. Ghul also expressed her grief in ageing and accepting ‘the loss of a past that cannot be had and the loss of hopes for a future that is no longer possible’.
Clinical Psychologist Reinhard Guss raised the notion of political grief in terms of the current US presidency and Brexit. His own grief, as a German who calls the UK home, stems from being in a place where he is no longer welcome. He remarked that although there seemed to be a pressure to ‘work’ on grieving or to refer to stages or psychological models, in reality the ways of grieving are less structured.
The panel all pointed to acceptance as key in coping with grief. Rituals, in their widest sense, such as Lockey’s creating Boat or through the performative aspect of Ghul’s mother’s German Christmas may act to assuage grief. My sense is that although every grief has a shape of its own and cannot be easily boxed or wittingly healed, and certainly not to a convenient timeline, through acceptance and practices like these there lies a possibility for its eventual transmutation.
- Lubna Gem Arielle
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Ephemeral Art, What a Beautiful Thing - That Creative Feeling
Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong - Psychology Today
Pema Chodron / When Things Fall Apart - BrainPickings
Physical Effects of Grief - BBC News
Talking to Grief - Denise Levertov
Grief is the Thing with Feathers - Max Porter