I´m doing a yearlong project with a little piece of art every day. This is my way to think about grief and loss. This is my way to express creativity. This is my way to learn something about life. This my way to live one year with eyes and arms and heart wide open. Join me! It´s an adventure!
You can also find me on Instagram: @365.days.in.the.mourning
Hinweis: Ich schreibe hauptsächlich auf Englisch, da viele der beteiligten Personen englisch-sprachig sind. Bitte gerne melden, wenn ich mit der Übersetzung ins Deutsche weiterhelfen kann!
Spill something. I spilled Chinese Writing Ink on a piece of paper and then let it run. Sad face done. 🤗
Work with dirt. I was in the train the whole day, so this is a quick one for today. The last days, I visited friends and family and I think not only my actual luggage was fully packed, but also my emotional suitcase is now full of old stories, and new stories, memories, feelings, good thoughts and sad thoughts...and I now need some time to unpack. What is old and can stay in the past? What influences my way of life until today? How can (and should) I integrate all this in my current activities and plans?...
...In the fogged bathroom mirror. I think this is really helpful to say to someone grieving, when you don't know what to say and aren't sure whether you should get in touch with them (a familiar feeling to me): "I want to give you space and privacy, but I am also worried about you, and I want to check in with you."
Have a ball, make a ball or make something with a ball. How lonely can one be? [post it on kohlrabi] (inspired by @morekompensationforthisnation and "Cast Away" 🤗)
Buy something at a thrift store and work with it. I bought this and the rest of the jeans at a thrift store when I was about 15 years old. And I loved these trousers, because they were tattered at the legs and everyone said: You can't wear a tattered jeans to this occasion or that event! And I felt quite rebellious to wear it anyway. 😌😎 I miss that jeans. 😢😊
Optical illusions. My grandpa loved to tell jokes and was fun to talk to. When we were small children, my brother told him "Grandpa, you are fat!" and he said: "You may think it is fat, but that is an optical Illusion: I just have lots of muscles there!"
Work as if you were a young child or baby. Today I met Jonas, he is 1 year old and we played with candy wrapper: Jonas enjoyed to jumble it up, crinkle it and throw it off the table...again and again. 😌😁 I was very fascinated about his endurance and determination... And I thought about how this might be also a metaphor for grief: jumble yourself up, crinkle in pain, falling and getting up again and again...?!
Make something out of a napkin. What's in the numbers?! I went to a restaurant with my family today and we all (and the staff) still remember what my grandparents used to eat (my grandfather died over 10 years ago!): No. 306 is sweet and sour chicken and 311 is coalfish in tomato sauce. Bon appetit!
Open a book on a random page and get inspired. I read an article about feminists reclaiming the colour Pink... And I thought about my attempt to protest against the pressure to wear black at funerals and to reclaim my freedom to wear what I want and with what I feel most comfortable. These are some fancy designs for funeral outfits...Subtext: wear whatever you want to wear. Don't ask for permission. BUT: Make sure whatever you wear has pockets!
Make something out of an old t-shirt and take a picture wearing it. Soooo...we have to talk about grieving and society's constant pressure upon people to self-optimize and to be strong, to move forward, to take the next step...or at the very least to find comfort in calender mottos... This t-shirt is my offer of talks!
Inspired by insects. My ideas for today were full of pictures with insects scuttling out of human bodies... But I decided to take it easy. You're welcome!
Work with time. So in this video there is my day in 1 min. (Side note: I never took so many pictures of myself in one day. 😱🙈) I tried to capture the facial expression and emotion I actually had and felt at that moment - and not smiling or grimacing in front of the camera. What I learned about my emotions today was: my spirit went up and down, most of the day I was really tired and didn't feel very well (that sneezing,... 🙄😕😷), smiling was exhausting, and taking pictures of myself without the chance to delete them is REALLY not part of my comfort zone. 😬😱😌
An invitation to an every day event: this is the favorite cartoon of a dear friend of mine, so I thought it might be a good idea to celebrate my random survival of another monday with this still life - you are all invited to do the same (in your own way with whatever food or drinks or persons you prefer)! 🎉 🎉 🎉
Work backwards. Working in front of a mirror, painting by looking into the mirror. I call this "Conversations with dead flowers": I really tried my best to keep you alive! Was there anything I could have done to save you? Is it my fault that you died? I didn't know how to cure you! Nothing helped! I tried everything! But in the end it was too late...I could only watch you die: first you lost all your colour, you turned so pale! Then you became grey and cold...
Ask a stranger what to do today. Soooo... I don't like to talk to strangers... BUT: Strangers really like to talk to me. And on weekends I usually try to avoid that. BUT: I found a test on this really useful thing called internet. The test said "What should I paint today?" and the answer was: Black and Abstract. Please have a look at the upper left corner. I did this for a dare: leaving a space on the painting without colour! 😱😬😨💀👻
The colour orange.
- "We just wish you could be like you were before...?!"
- "How could I???" 😓
Facial expression from the leftovers of a meal. This is a speechless broken crisps face. Today was one of these days: One minute my co-worker and I were laughing about silly things, the next minute she got a phone call that her dad was diagnosed with cancer. So "speechless" was the facial expression of the day today...
Make something with any screws or nails lying around. I wanted to make something inspired by the Dylan Thomas quote: "Do not go gently into that good night but rage, rage against the dying of the light."...well...this is the art for today, I guess...🤔😐
Write a letter to your future self. This is a letter to my dying and my dead self. I hope I won't need this letter any time soon, but just in case: these are 8 pages of my current thoughts on that topic. ✌😊⏳
Make a piñata. Today I thought about death in comics, Anime and Manga... Not that I am an expert, but my feeling is, that death is present in all narratives, but more like a threat or at a turning point of the story...Funny that the first thing that came to my mind was "Dragon Ball Z" and the death of Son Goku (my brother watched the series). 😌😁 So this is a Dragon Ball Piñata for today's prompt. 🤗
Work with bubble wrap and other packing materials. I witnessed a car accident today and got the inspiration for this poem: "Roses are red, violets are blue. There is no such thing as ultimate protection, sorry and thank you." [bubble wrap and gift wrap]
Make something with stuff from your office. This weekend will be full of art and museums - that is why I was inspired to do a statue-like "person in grief".
Work with a candle. A quick one for today: Here's to silver linings where you least expect them! 🌈 [wax on wax].
Decorate a cake. I waited so long to do this: I made Brownies!!! And I need help to eat them! Any volunteers?
UPDATE from yesterday's 86 of 365: I shared the Brownies with my grief councelling colleagues. We had so much fun! And I love, that they can share my sense of humour.
Me: "Do you want a piece of this cemetery?"
Them: "Yeah, sure!"
Me: "A double grave or just a single one?"
Them: "I'm optimistic: Make it a double!" 😂😂😂
Work with soap. I painted a portrait of my grand aunt (my grandma's sister, who actually was like a third grandmother to me) with soap on my bathroom mirror. My grand aunt died 11 years ago - she was the first person I saw dead. And the past few years a lot of questions came to my mind about how she lived her life, whether she was happy how she lived her life...these questions never came to my mind when she was still alive! Wouldn't it be nice to know the questions you want to ask a person ten years from today? ☺
Invent an utensil. So this is a very handy utensil designed for everyday use. Today is #womensmarch anniversary, so this is a quick reminder: death positivity = feminist = body positivity = fighting for a good death for all people = smashing gender roles. As Sarah Chavez said: "Us morbid girls? We're going to save the world because we'll be fearless. If we aren't afraid of death, what is there left for us to be afraid of?"
Use erasers. I carved this in a technical eraser, thinking about my grandfather who had Altzheimer's: This is a terminal disease which in the case of my family was unsettling, baffling and we all hadn't enough knowledge about it to cope with it very well... Some days it seemed, there was a giant (and sometimes a small) eraser in my granddad's head, that deleted all the required and helpful information.
Try dyeing (or die trying)! Sorry, this will be the day of the puns... 😬😂 Attention! Attention! Important announcement: We are all dyeing (sooner or later)! 😱😍🎉 [watercolour on tissue]
Search for litter in the street. I am spending my day at the airport due to a delayed flight and I only found this stain and turned it into a snail via smartphone... The snail symbolizes the slow and often invisible steps "forward" (what is forward?) in grief.
Make up a name and write a back story for a stranger. I visited a cemetery here in Madeira (of course): this is the grave of Vito Abreu Silva - he is remembered from everyone in his village as the man who always walked his dog "Pipo" along the road from his house to the churchyard, where he sat with the other elderly men to chat or more often to just sit and watch the people walking by.
Work with shredded paper. "What has that got to do with dying or grief?" "I don't know... Nothing... Everything!"
Make something you can wear on (or in?!) your ear. "If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive." (Brené Brown).
Use chalk. I find it ridiculous to write "I was here" on public toilets, walls, hotel beds, etc. But it was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about what to write on the Levada wall in Madeira. And it's funny: I never think about my own death as much as I do when I'm on vacation [I don't like being on a plane for instance 😬😌] So today I was thinking about legacy and leaving something behind for others to find when I die...you know...something that says: "I was here"...
Be bold: go to a restaurant and ask what they let you do. Soooooo...I am not the bold one it seems...but I went to a restaurant and made this camp fire [egg yolk, jam, Nutella, coffee on napkin]: when I worked with young people we used to do camp fires regularly and sitting around that fire always made the young people to open up. Often we talked about grieving and death. The death of the beloved hamster, but also being a witness of a violent death...this one goes out to camp fires, brave young people and social workers who sit with them!
Work with gravel, sand or rocks. "In grief, people reach their water table. Tears are nothing short of ground water."
Time travel: Make something inspired by another era. As it seems, I get to sleep tonight next to a human mummy... [I'll remove it before I leave the hotel room, I promise!]
Calculator operation! 1: What everyone thinks the grieving process looks like. 2: What it actually looks like.
Make a puzzle. In the light of current events: It's a blessing and a course.
Make something out of paper maché. I made a big tear with the words from Antoine de Saint-Exupery on it saying: "It is such a secret place, the land of tears."
Go to the grocery store and find something new to work with. I went to the tea section and found an appropriate tea for grieving people: It's called "Inner Balance". A nice thought to sip some tea and then get your inner balance back! I tried some outer balance game with spoons, too.
Today's theme is: It's all about me. So this is a self portrait with confetti and a crow.
Make a mask and wear it. An easy one for today: I printed the most famous funerary mask in the world from Tutankhamun and cut out the eyes. Done!
Make something with your dinner today. Once asked where I get my energy from in tough times I said: "Sitting on my red sofa in that specific spot between the second seat and the throw cushion on the right side energizes me." (And eating comfort food like pasta with pesto.)
Use only things you find in the bathroom. Happy Birthday to me! Here's to a new year and to old wishes that remain unfulfilled...yet! 🍾🍷🔮🎉 [toilet paper, tooth paste, nailpolish, Q-tips]
Document a shadow. This is a shadow of the past as Joan Baez sings: "Well, I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again...". 🎶 Every now and than I wished my younger self knew more about self-protection and setting boundaries...
Combine two things that generally don't go together. My grandma used to keep her yarn in perfect order. This is why this little yellow guy is slightly embarrassed about his whereabouts.
As big as possible. My parents now have a huge snow owl in their backyard. Mythology knows a lot about owls and death: they are supposed to be connected to the wisdom of the soul and creatures of the world inbetween life and death...
Use a disposable plastic bag. Today's theme is: mourning your first car. My mum's first car was a sky-blue VW Beetle. She lost it during a car accident but it still lives on in her stories...
Make something heavy seem light. In grief the only way to make something heavy seem light is to wear a mask of serenity.
Write an advertising jingle for something in nature. Want to hire the Professional Earth Worm Team? Now available at your local cemetery!
The sense of smell. A cup of coffee was the last thing my grandma wished to drink before she died. The smell of coffee is also used as basal stimulation for dying people. It is a smell that is stored well in the human brain - plus: coffee powder absorbes objectionable odour that occurs in the dying process! ☕
Work upside down. The hourglass usually symbolises that time is running out at the end of life...
Make something that would not normally be considered cute or cuddly into something that is. First draft of "Kitten Coffin"!
All white. Some new Christmas tree ornaments with snow flakes. I am going "home" for Christmas to visit my family who lives at the other end of Germany - the snowy part 😉. And it's funny because I never get homesick, except for when I am going home. 🤔 So the last days I am really looking forward to seeing everyone at home. 🤗
Quantity over quality: Work with a lot of something. I have a lot of postcards - some are over 15 years old. Some are from people that are already dead, some postcards are from people I haven't spoken in years... I think I keep the postcards as mementos...
And there is a funny story, that some years ago, a friend stayed at my house and he was very surprised that there was a postcard from Brussels on my shelf - he couldn't remember that he himself send it to me!
How tall can you make something that stands on its own? A suitcasetower. I have this thing with inheriting the suitcases of my ancestors: The red one was my great aunt's and I still take it on vacations. The little one under the red one belonged to my grandparents who took this suitcase with them when they went on their honeymoon - it was their only luggage (!!!).
Work with flowers. Every Christmas my mum used to buy a bouquet of snow roses for my grandma.
Make something that lights up. Are you a giver or receiver of light in the dark?
This was a not so easy idea to realise: or to be precise, it was easy in theory but not that easy putting it into praxis - a third hand would have been great.
Learn something new. Ask a friend for a new technique. This was the possibility to try what my friend W. taught me a few weeks ago: painting portraits with a bundle of toothpicks! Here you can see a self portrait of the artist: This is me, hiding from the world outside and the gloom inside...
Make something better out of junk mail. Collage: when everything is shattered, be on the watch for love and light in the shambles.
Think big. Big shoeprint. 17 years ago we were searching my grandfather who didn't came back from a walk. It was snowy and cold and it became unrealistic to find him alive... However we went through wind and snow for many weekends, but it was April until someone else found his body. The current weather reminds me of that quest.
Make something with yarn. Little embroidery on a patch. And a little reminder in times of grief: your rage is okay.
Make a haiku about something you did today. Cookie galore!
"Cookies like armies
Perfection made by grandma
Unrivelled since then."
Work underwater. Acrylic colour on the bottom of a plastic can filled with water. I had to be quick: the decay came immediately.
The theme for today is Meat Loaf's "Not a dry eye in the house. After loves curtain comes down. Listen and you'll hear the sound. Hear the sound of a heart breaking." 🎶 I so love this head line: what a dry sense of humour! When you look around you in times of grief and heartbreak and you can't find a dry eye in the house...
Make something with a stapler. "Friendship, that’s like home." Kurt Tucholsky. Some of you might know friendship bracelets one exchanges with friends... I have those. But I also have a friendship stapler! 💪😎🎉 (and friendship bags, friendship pins, friendship nailpolish, friendship magnets, friendship dresses...). And often, when I feel lost and I'm not sure, where "home" is, I look at these friendship signs and I'm better.
Make something old look new. This is a sewing machine pedal without and with glitter...In my theory, there is a correlation between today's date (6th of December), certain birthday girls and sewing: it was my late grandmother's birthday today and she was a dressmaker. And it's the birthday of my dear friend Fr. Kirsche who is the coolest sewcialist I know. Glitter and gold and a happy birthday to you!
Create instructions. How to do a cemetery stroll. In 5 steps. Try it, it's easy!
Make something ephemeral. Combining art with necessity: liquid cleanser on bath tub. 😁😎 Next week it was 17 years ago that my grandfather went missing and in April it was 17 years ago that someone found his body in the forest. My family planted a tree at the place of discovery. 🌱
Make a path. Mourning is sometimes symbolized by a labyrinth: every time you think "now I am getting out of it" - there is a turn to get you deeper into grief. Yet it might also be a symbol of coming closer to your midst (?!).
Make a disguise. Today: napkin doodeling, "grief comes in many disguises".
Use school materials. Little Laura (she's in 2nd grade) told me: "....and at Linda's funeral we had red balloons. They flew very high so Linda could see them and could catch one!" 🎈
Inspired by a recent dream. Liberty or death: a flight through a tunnel with around 50 children, my brother and a guy called Tilman (hmmm...I don't know any Tilman)... Hello again, dear subconscious mind!
Make something portable which usually isn't. Hey Jude: "...And any time you feel the pain: Hey Jude, refrain. Don't carry the world upon your shoulder..."
Everything green. "When you work with (grieving) people, you are like a chameleon: You can easily adapt and change your colour, so that people feel understood, accepted and appreciated the way they are." - one of the best compliments I ever got. Find the video on Instagram!
Something out of the recycling bin. A medieval death lantern ("lanternes des morts") out of an orange juice package and tin foil.
Make a bridge. Bridging feminism and death awareness is like being a Ninja Turtle driving a volkswagen beetle: it doesn't make sence to everybody straight away, but it does to me (and to a lot of other people, too!) ;-)
Something out of clay. "There is a body burried within us: The body of the person we wanted to be with the one we loved." [Barbara Pachl-Eberhardt]
Floating. I discussed conceptions of afterlife with a friend a few weeks ago. Is there anything at all? Would we call it heaven?... One can discuss this endless because as a matter of fact (or in this case: no fact) we don't know it. But I think: if we don't know it, we can choose what helpes us put our minds at rest: For me it is helpful to think about a nice place (maybe with a bench where you can sit and chat) rather than to think about the great void, etc.
Make something with what you find in a car. "Call me. Something's happened." A short message from my parents that gives me the creeps: The last time I got that message almost two years ago when my grandma died. I grabbed my satnav, got a rental car and drove all the 7 hours to my hometown.
Make a unique print. Inspired by the poem "Gone from my sight" from van Dyke: I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone," there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"
And that is dying...
Make something with paper currency. I started folding the banknote like this and remembered the night after my grandparents died, I dreamt about them standing like shadows in front of an open door looking at me...It was like a last greeting...In these instances I am very thankful for my subconscious mind... ;-)
Make something microscopic. The last days I thought about these tiny moments of freedom in the grieving process: laughter without feeling guilty, enjoying the sun and good music without feeling sad, going out with friends and actually having fun, being alone and not feeling lonely...
Make something with tea (bags)/ inspired by tea. I remember working with people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. One woman told me that one day she got really upset and overwhelmed with her feelings at a train station and she said she couldn't understand the reaction of the policeman who found her: "I was so upset and crying and that police officer brought me a cup of tea?! What was he thinking???" - I tried to explain the making of tea as a social ritual: trying to comfort oneself and the other person when you're not really sure what else to do (and when you know you can't do anything else!).
Camouflage something. Done it myself too often...
Use your nondominant hand. I listened to "Green fields of France" and "the Band played Waltzing Matilda" and the theme for today was found: Grief and war. I painted this with my left hand... I remember both my grandfathers used to paint with (and favored) their left hand (however they had to learn to write with the right hand in school).
Next weekend I'll attend a workshop about grief and wartime children, I guess this triggered some thoughts...
Make something with your breakfast. I went a bit Wehrli ("The Art of Clean Up") this morning. But here comes my all time favourite muesli-metaphor in times of grieving: Grieving is like a muesli - lots of stuff you just eat because it's in it, some really odd looking things you're not sure they're REALLY healthy,... and you have to digg deep to maybe (and it doesn't happen every day) find a piece of chocolate or another good thing!
Transform an old book. I learned today: I really really can't cut into a book. But I did some sewing and hung the book on my lamp... I found this old copy of "Dead Poets Society" - a story full of grief and loss and guilt and anger but also full of love and admiration and about good teaching (!) and of course poetry. And I felt I should do some standing-on-a-desk today while reciting Thoreau: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived."
Make a stencil. This stencil says "mourning" and is shaped like a tear. I tried it on a shirt with textile colour and on a wall with spray paint which did not turn out well. The next stencil I make will be with more space between the letters! :-)
Make something out of the first fruit or vegetable you see in the kitchen. This is a very ecofriendly banana coffin for day 6. I am not very pleased with the outcome, but think I just go with it and take it as an exercise in unperfectionism. ;-)
Make something with a collection: The broken one.
Take a 5 minute walk outside and create something with materials you found on your way. Grieving sometimes feels like walking a tightrope.
Experiment with paper without using scissors, glue, etc. Home and heart. Out of pages retrieved from the magazine of the (German) Federal Agency for Civic Education. I thought about losing home ("Heimat" in German) and making knots to memorize everything one had to leave behind. When I made the knot I saw that it resembled a heart...
Head and heart.
Ehem... I got a little overwhelmed with the thought of 365 days ahead. And I did, what I always do, when I get that feeling: I made a list. But I really don´t want to be too rational during this project, instead bring rational thoughts in line with my instincts and emotions. One can draw a parallel between that and dealing with loss and grief...
It´s the final day of my second CreativeSprint. This time I stayed relaxed and optimistic throughout the whole challenge. And this gave me the courage to do a yearlong project inspired by Noah
Scalin´s book "365: A Daily Creativity Journal".
I´m going to stick to the daily inspirations in the book for a while and see where it leads me from there.
People who know me won´t be surprised when they hear about the theme I chose for my project. Recently I found a printed shirt with this sentence on it: I am a mourning person. This is so right! I am a mourning person (to be honest I think everyone is). I think I always was. I can not count the things, places, dreams and of course people that I lost in my life so far. And since I was a young girl I am interested in death and grief and their effects on people and relationships and systems. I know, this sometimes seems like a very scientific view...this is a part of my coping strategy I think: Trying to understand the incomprehensible, trying to stay in control,...all these things.
However, I always tried to not stay detached but to get closer to my own grief and to the grief of others. Two years ago I became a qualified grief counselor. I am a hospice volunteer. I made a lot of good and appreciative friends in the field of grief counselling and hospice care. It is a very supporting and caring community (like the CreativeSprinters!). I am very grateful to get to know a lot of wonderful people coping with loss. And if there is one thing I learned in recent years: Mourning and grieving and coping with loss is an art itself and we are all raw beginners...which nicely leads me to Day 1!
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