Mandy Nicholson

The Creative Genius Corner

Lessons, musings and advice from the author of ‘The Life I Won’

Death and the Creative Mind

Artists in all genres have been fascinated by death and all it’s gore since cavemen were around.  Capturing the death of saints and soldiers, death in poverty, death in abundance and documenting every aspect of its inevitability.

Because we see and feel the world and all its angst more deeply, we can capture the essence of things that other people can’t even imagine.

What on earth prompted me to write about death?

My beloved dog Jet died recently, and I have written about him in life when he has brought me joy and hilarity, so why wouldn’t I write about him in death.

Rarely do we find such loving and loyal companions in our lives as dogs. Let me just say this now by the way, if you are not a dog person and you don’t understand why we are sad when our dog’s die, then jog on because you are not my kind of person.

I was obviously devastated, we had spent 15 years together, longer than any of my marriages lasted! But what has death got to do with our mind and even more importantly, our business.

Because we think and feel differently to the ‘normies’ then death doesn’t just trigger grief and sadness, it sends us within ourselves to explore how we feel, and this act can be highly creative. I know it’s a bit weird and morbid, but Jet’s death triggered me to write a mountain of content. Deep content, thoughtful content, and creative content.

Some people sit in their sadness and are immobilised, but I find it sends me to my art, this time it was writing, when I lost my husband in 2020 it was painting. I am going to assume that I am not alone, because you only need to look at the great masters of the artworld to know that they have painted emotions, and so much of the great literary work has come from a deep place of imagination driven from the same place.

In fact, viewing mourning as an opportunity for personal growth can lead to a surge in creativity with a renewed sense of purpose. Opening a deep sense of self and how we are experiencing grief can not only be healing but create a new level of authenticity as we share our experience with the world.

The one thing I would never do is advise you HOW to grieve, because we all do it differently. You must grieve your way, but if you are a creative, consider the healing power of your craft.

  • Without suffering how can we progress? Whatever your loss, it could be the loss of a loved one, a job, your health, we grieve all passings, the change and pain are conduits for growth. Making art of any kind when you are in this state is like an invite for us to nurture our emotions. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I wrote a book and the act of writing it daily like a diary was how I survived and dealt with his loss. Bottling up emotions and saying ‘I’m OK’ is like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. When we allow ourselves to openly express ourselves in times of loss, we access our creative powers and find solace in imagination and inspiration from the universe. It’s like opening a conversation with the canvas or the page and telling it how our hearts have been hurt. There is little more beautiful and profound than this type of raw creativity.
  • Give yourself a break! When we participate in any type of creative process it gives us a break from thought. We are not focused on the loss, we are simply ‘being’ in the moment of creation, and this can bring relief and calm. I call this my ‘red thread’ that connects my head, my heart, and my hands. I have a red thread to the people I love the most that connects us through our love, and I extend it to help me in grief. I am still connected to those I love through this thread; I just weave it in a different way to help me to survive their absence, be it physical or virtual. Using this thread connection, I can tell a story by thinking about the outcome of my creative activity. When I lost my husband, I painted a vision I had of us both in the future and it hangs in my studio and brings me peace and joy. When Jet died, I felt the need to write and share the essence of him through the words I wrote.
  • Heal yourself. Creating beauty out of pain can be incredibly cathartic and reinforces our resilience as human beings. So many artists have created their greatest work during times of grief, loss, and adversity. Obviously, nobody wants to live in a constant state of grief however seeing this state as an opportunity to create and experiencing how it helps can lead to something wonderful.
  • Stages. Scientists and healers tell us that the grieving process has stages. I believe that every loss has stages and we all experience emotions such as denial, anger, pain, and depression at some level. Sometimes this can shift hourly and drag us across a spectrum of discomfort. But the inevitable outcome is always reconstruction and acceptance. Everyone reaches those final stages in their own time, but the journey is impossible to bypass. Applying creativity to this process can offer us safe passage in experiencing these stages, leaving us feeling more empowered and able to move forwards. Art is a language which allows us to speak from the heart.
  • Creativeness is close to Godliness! I am not religious however I am spiritual and believe there is a greater force than us. I truly believe that the creative process allows us to detach ourselves from this earthly life where the pain exists and seek out protection and guidance. We are the God within ourselves and when we create from that space it is closer to that divine existence, whatever that may be.

This is not a preachy blog post based on my experience, I don’t expect you to do anything that doesn’t feel comfortable to you. I am merely sharing so that you may see that there are so many ways to navigate loss. Even if you don’t see yourself as traditional creative, writing in a journal could be your way of mapping your way through grief.

My beautiful boy Jet has left a gaping hole in my heart and my life. He was my soul mate without ever uttering a word. There is little else in life that is more beautiful than that and he deserves to be credited for the absolute joy he brought to my family. So, this is for you ‘Jet the pet’, we will continue to be connected by a red thread until we meet again.

Love & Colour

Mandy x

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