Mourning for loved ones and healing through art

my brother-in-law Chris

It has been hard to write this post. The past month or so has been rough. A week after my birthday, while away for a weekend, my husband and I got the call that his brother Christopher was very ill and in the hospital. Hours later he passed away at only 42 years old. While we knew he had been recovering from a pulmonary embolism from earlier in the year, it was still a shock. The following week and a half was filled with family traveling in from all parts of the country for the services. Being surrounded by loved ones who are sharing your grief is comforting, but eventually exhausting. The sharing of experiences helps to release emotions about the loss, but being in that emotional state is draining. I can only imagine how much harder this has been for Chris’ parents.

my Aunt Carol

Ten days after the services, I got word that my aunt and Godmother was very ill. Though she was only 68, she had been battling complications from her diabetes for years. Earlier in the year her heart stopped beating on its own, and her kidneys were shutting down. I took a trip to New Hampshire to be with her and my cousin, hoping to bring some comfort to them, and to give myself time to let her go. Four weeks to the day after Christopher’s passing, my aunt Carol died in hospice, and I returned with family for the services.

my garden of gratitude

In both cases, My husband and I were fortunate to have visited our loved ones recently. I am so grateful that we had that time. And as hard as it is to lose someone you care about, in the process of mourning we connect with family, and eventually reflect on happy memories of those that we have lost. Looking through photos of both Chris and Carol, I’m reliving the weddings, birthdays, parties, and seeing them smiling. My husband and I are also very lucky to have the love and support of our friends during all of this. But I am still feeling very out of sorts and in need of rest. The feelings come and go, and I imagine this will pattern will stay with me for a while.

water lilies

After Chris’ passing, I started a project that brought me some peace. I had it in mind to paint a series of water lilies as a thank-you to everyone who made it to my surprise party. The water lilies have a spiritual meaning to me, as they are similar to a lotus. As I painted, I felt that these flowers embodied my gratitude, for both the celebration and the recent support from family and friends. The flowers have made their way to their owners, and I have heard they brought a smile to some faces. I am painting more of them now as a commission, and again, I feel peace during the painting process.


The day that my aunt passed, I spent some time at a wellness expo. While I contemplated the connection between us, I came across Roland Comtois, a Rhode Island spiritualist and author. At his table was a display about an upcoming event – the lighting of luminaries for loved ones, proceeds of which would benefit the American Heart Association and Heavenly Passage’s The Living Garden. The timing seemed right, so I purchased luminaries for Chris and Carol. I was able to do a quick marker drawing on each, and so I added the symbolism I have been returning to lately – on being free from burdens, from pain, from the anxieties of this life. On being at peace. Again, it helped me to express this visually, and am comforted by the thought of all the luminaries lit in remembrance. The lighting is on April 15th, and I’m thinking I will go and experience it in person.

The process of mourning is very personal – I know it’s very different for each of us. For me, focusing on artmaking has been helpful, and I find myself walking and looking for the onset of spring in the trees and flowers around my home. Perhaps that connection with nature heals me, but also I see a correlation with the human spirit and the shedding of dormant husks, of returning to life. Despite the long winter, the energy that lies within awakens and begins again.

In remembrance of Christopher Kretchman, February 19, 2012 and Carol Kuhns, March 18, 2012.

10 thoughts on “Mourning for loved ones and healing through art

  1. Thank you for sharing this touching story. How difficult the past month has been for you! Your strength lies in your family, and your beautiful lilies.

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