The Healing Power of Grief

I was still alive, but huge swaths of who I am lay dormant inside, waiting to be awoken as soon as I was ready to grieve.

abstract painting by Nicole Javorsky

Dearest Doodle Soupers,


What is the cost of avoiding sadness, denying one's grief?


This week, I felt a buildup of tears waiting for me at the edge of a songs I'd been listening to and the end of my sentences. The grief I need to let myself feel - well, I just didn't want to fully feel it. I wanted to feel the happiness that I felt just as true in those same moments.


I busied myself with cleaning, walking, singing, cooking, errands. It's not to say that there was anything wrong with these activities. In fact, I find it very satisfying to cook and relaxing to wash my dishes, and singing is precious to me. However, from the vantage point of this Saturday evening, I realize that I was avoiding rest, because were I to put aside my to do list for a day, I'd make space for what I didn't want to feel yet - I'd be making space for my grief.

Why would I go to such lengths just to avoid feeling this? I guess, sometimes, I just need a little while to realize that I do not need to keep running and to understand that I will not be crushed under the weight of the truth.


Dr. Joanne Cacciatore is a professor and researcher whose area of expertise is traumatic grief and loss, not only as a scholar but also as a human being with her own grief for loss of her daughter. She wrote a book called Grieving is Loving, meant to be a companion for those bearing the unbearable. Although the book directly addresses those who have lost a loved one, I've found it very comforting to read as I grieved other kinds of losses. Even just the title of this book I've found very meaningful and even wrote a song inspired by the idea, "Grieving is Loving."


Dr. Cacciatore writes, "We will not cease to exist if we grieve our truth. We will cease to exist if we don't."


All those years that passed when I was not in touch with my truth, with the reality of the sexual abuse I suffered and the pain I endured, I was not fully me. I was still alive, and yet huge swaths of who I am lay dormant inside, waiting to be awoken as soon as I became ready to know my truth and grieve it.


I knew myself as an artist before I even started kindergarten. And still, during my teenage years and early 20s, I tried to be somebody else. Without being conscious of it, I was trying to be someone others would have an easier time understanding, I was trying to be someone less sensitive, and thus less me. I cannot lie to myself when I paint, when I sing, or when I write from the heart. So I'd scribble in my sketchbook because I could and would not completely cease being myself, but I'd try not to look very hard at my drawings. I'd begin to write a story, and then I'd stop. I'd write one poem, and then go focus on something else. I wasn't ready to know the painful experiences of my life in their full reality, but I still loved what I loved. I still loved art, and I believe that I couldn't continue existing without somehow returning to myself as an artist and a sensitive soul as often as I could. It was like I avoided just enough to postpone the inevitable knowing, yet stayed with myself just enough to allow my soul and inner light to survive.


The painting at the top of this edition, "The Blues, coming down, pouring down on me," is one of my newer works from this year. It's part of my latest series of paintings, Into the Light, that I've begun this week to share on my website and social media. The series shares a title with my book and a collection of songs I released over the past several months.


No matter how big the grief, I can't help but recognize again and again this incredible fact: there is something gentle and sweet just beyond the deepest heartbreak. When I let go of judgement and cease all the watching-myself-from-the-outside and I finally allow myself to speak freely or to let my tears ring out raw and true, I feel connected to this pure, bittersweet power. In those moments, I fear nothing. There is only that one moment and a sense of oneness with the truth.


This is the description for the Into the Light series of paintings. I hope you enjoy these paintings and find meaning within them. You can find them here.


With love in my grief,


Nicole Sylvia Javorsky