The art of grieving

I painted this series of 22 pictures in 1999.  Five years later I met Kristina Shellinski.  I present them now with a new commentary to accompany the publication of,

Individuation for Adult Replacement Children: Ways of Coming into Being

Kristina E. Schellinski (Routledge, 2019).

I am a replacement child.  However, it was only in the process of grieving the death of my father at the age of eighty, that I stumbled upon my unknown feelings surrounding the death of my brother eighteen months prior to my birth.  In her case studies, Schellinski has included aspects of my story along with examples of my sculptures.  In addition to this material she has asked me, with the agreement of the publishers, to put these paintings onto my website.  In her book, she “demonstrates how adult replacement children who suffer from physical and psychological distress can rediscover the essence of their being in the transformative process of individuation.”  My paintings give expression to my particular experience of this general pattern.

For website visitors who are interested in seeing the pictures without the written commentary, please skip the background introduction and go directly to the pictures. These can be enlarged by clicking on them and further details by using the + sign.  For those who wish to follow the commentary, it is possible to move the text to be in line with the part of the picture that is being described.   The website is responsive; however, a larger screen is recommended.  It is an intense journey and can be separated it into four sections as follows: - Parts 1 and 2 and then Part 3 sub-divided between nos. 17 and 18.  To view other pages of my website, click on my name to see the whole menu.

 

Background and Introduction

Although I was unaware of any issues concerning my replacement-child origins, my life journey was making preparations for my ability to both recognise and to work through this condition.  As a girl replacing a boy, the value of my femaleness was in question.  It felt as though I was unseen because only boys are valuable enough to be seen.  This unconscious microcosmic situation is embedded in a public culture where women are unseen as whole human beings.  Every Christmas the birth of the Divine Boy is celebrated and every Easter it is the death and resurrection of the male hero.  The cultural idea of “woman” has until very recently been described from the position of the male subject.

In order to work with my particular experience of replacement, I needed a language that would affirm my femaleness.  It was this quest that took me to India – where I lived continuously for twelve years.  I spent six years in a Christian Art Ashram, followed by six years in a Hindu temple town.  My consciousness was expanded in many ways.  I lived in a culture where myths and symbols were part of everyday life.  With my Hindu friends I went to the Narasimha (Man Lion) temple and witnessed an image of the Divine where rage and violence are included as being divine qualities because they overcome the ego.  I also saw in images of the Goddesses Kali and Durga this same creative violence – yet along side nurturing qualities.  When later I worked with Hindu craftsmen on my sculpture “The Birth of the Divine Girl”, I was influenced by their straightforward belief that the Divine appears in both male and female forms.

However, it was also in India that I discovered a Christian culture that is still in process and where many of the qualities that I found life giving in Hinduism were just as much present in the ways that Indian theologians approach the Gospel.  A key insight was the move away from historical representation of Biblical figures, to forms of art that give expression to faith experience.  This was often done through stories or dance.  My series of paintings share this narrative approach.  I am not illustrating biblical characters.  However, I am attempting to see literally what it means to carry my own cross.  At every stage on the way, it has been when I have named my “problem” (cross) – including for example the denial of my problem! – that the unconscious has come up with an amazing solution – which personally I could never have thought of.  At its most basic this is a story about death and resurrection.

When I made the pictures, I knew very little about Jungian theories of individuation.  However now, twenty years later I see that they follow a pattern where I encounter my shadow, meet my animus (inner male) and find a new God image that speaks to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART 1 - THE FIGHT

The individuation process begins in a classical way – with a conflict.  It is a fight between two women, yet both sides deny their own violence.  This violence – it will turn out has its origins in my unconscious rage towards my dead brother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.LOOK AT MY HATE

I invite everyone including myself to “look at my hate” – however the “I” factor shown in the large grey woman definitely does not want to look at her hate.  Attached to her left thigh (right to viewer) is the “skeleton in the cupboard”.  She is my habitual position when faced with emotions – I shut down and don’t feel them.  Although this turns me literally into a skeleton – never mind - I need not feel and far less express my fury.  But this fury is here for the viewer to see.  On the right, connected to the skeleton by a lightning bolt is a dancing red furious  woman – and on the left (to viewer) the murder of one woman by another is being enacted. According to Freud and Klein, the natural response to loss is anger and aggression unless defended against by depression.  I had experienced a vague depression for many years.  The death of my father was my wake-up call. 

 

2. ANGER

My anger now takes centre stage.  I am working hard to cover up and push back or push down, a green faced woman.  I call her Tenderness.  She is the sensitive, feeling side of me.  She wants to engage with the viewer but she is disempowered as she has no hands or feet.  Another part of me on the right remains present.  She is curled up and looks within.  On the left, I imagine myself as a grey skeletal woman.  I walk away as though I cannot bear to look at this conflict.  I am in denial. 

3. THE ATTACK

The conflict shown small on the left-hand side of the Hate Cloak, now comes into focus.  With terrifying ferocity, the Red Woman plunges a dagger into the heart of a Golden Woman.  On the right, attached by a shared foot, The Denier walks off.  She raises her hands as if to say “Well, if she behaves like that what can I do?”.

 

4. REVENGE

The Red Woman thinks she’s got rid of the Golden One.  No such luck!  Here she is again, alive and well.  The Denier has swopped sides and is now tied to the back of the Golden Woman.  Just to make certain she will not take any responsibility for what she is doing, she closes her eyes.  Then she tosses the Red Murderess over the cliff – way down into the abyss where she can stay for ever!

5. THE VICTIM AND THE PERPETRATOR

Through their shared experience of denial, the warring sides of my personality suddenly appear as “Best Friends”.  Together, and consciously – indicated by their open eyes and an ear (the first to be seen in the story), they go in search of The Denier.  They find her in her cave, surrounded by prickles to keep visitors away – but she herself is not running away.  They want to ask her about herself – but on principle – since she is The Denier, she never responds to direct questioning.  Instead she behaves as she normally does, behind their backs!   Here their fight breaks out again.  This time, the Denier does not walk away.  On the contrary she is right in the middle of it.  Her raised arm and open eyes indicate that at last, she is beginning to be able to feel what is happening.  One of the reasons this becomes possible is because the Red Murderess is given an archetypal form.  She appears now as a Rakshasi meaning a female demoness.  She has fangs and shows delight in being herself and fulfilling her role that in a Hindu epic is viewed as an essential part of the whole story.

 

 

 

6. THE FEMALE GOD-IMAGE

My attitude of enquiry is rewarded with the appearance of Awareness.  In the place where Denial walked away from the conflict, this new character stands and watches.  This is the small blue lady seen top left and lower right.  With her eyes open, she witnesses both the attack and the denial of the attack.   This is all she does.  She does not fix the situation or rush to the rescue.  She is the part of me that can accept the idea that I am both the perpetrator and the victim.  The importance of this insight will become apparent as the story unfolds.

To support and amplify my dawning ability to see both sides of me, a new God-image appears.  This is the three faced female deity at the centre.  Jung referred to the Transcendent Function as being the part of the psyche that goes beyond and unites the opposites.  I call this figure Trimurti Christa or Three Faced Female Christ.  She holds and looks at both sides of me – on the left the Red Murderess and on the right the “innocent” Golden Woman.  In psychological terminology this is the perpetrator and the victim.  Now that female rage is held together with female beauty and innocence, the desperate Red Child makes her appearance at the lower left.  Her story will continue in Part 3 – but before that I have to meet my animus – the inner masculine part of my psyche.

 

PART 2 – THE SMILE

In this section the relationship with my Animus undergoes a radical transformation from being in an “Emotional Coffin” to becoming a companion in my search to recover my emotional life. 

 

7. THE SMILE

The picture is divided into two sides with my father in the hospital bed on the left and his funeral on the right.  During the last week of his life he was unable to speak, so I decided to spend the visiting time singing.  In response to my song, he gave me a smile that conveyed unconditional love and acceptance.  This was especially moving since our relationship has often been distant or conflictual.  On the right, I give an imaginative account of his funeral.  Clearly these pictures are not literal.  In this encounter with my father, I am actually meeting my inner masculine side that has partly been formed from my picture of him. In order to withdraw the projection from my actual father, I now refer to him as the Dying Man.

A Dying Man is lying on a bed.  There are echoes of the original “Skeleton in the Cupboard” figure in the first painting.  Yet this partly paralysed, skeletal figure is very much alive and is communicating from his heart.  This is having a powerful affect on me.  I am moved to tears and these tears fertilize the ground I am sitting on.  Something deep inside me is shifting.  On the right, the foreground figures are back to the stiff inability to feel feelings.  However up above there is dramatic movement.  A small child is flying head first towards the open-lidded coffin.  I identify this as my deceased brother.  It seems that he wants to be part of this public act of mourning.

 

8. THE SKELETON AND THE SERPENT

Now a mother and a child share the coffin with a skeleton.  This death releases three ecstatic figures – a woman, a child and a man.  Gliding around the coffin is a large serpent in the archetypal form of the Uroboros meaning the serpent who touches its own tail so as to form a circle.  This is the symbol for the coming together of beginnings and endings.  The serpent is also a symbol of renewal because of the way it sloughs its skin and grows a new one.

A green boy reaches into the coffin and finds himself touching the serpent.  He both wants to face death and he also turns away from it.  Yet his gesture or attitude seems to be a life giving one as he stands on green grass.  On the other side of the serpent’s tail, there is the disembodied head of a lion.  It looks both angry – it shows its teeth, yet also sad.  In a pose that resembles the thoughtful figure in no. 2, someone kneels at the boundary marked out by the snake.  He or she is both involved in this process of renewal, yet also partly outside it.

9. THE EMOTIONAL COFFIN

The coffin now takes on a new meaning.  A young blue man stands up in his Emotional Coffin. Just as in the first picture, the grey woman looks away from her hate, this young man stands upright and looks away as a murder is taking place in front of him.  Once again, the Golden Woman is here.  It looks pretty clear to us the viewers that it is she who has committed the crime.  The Denier is not present.  Instead she has a black face – which she can’t see unless she looks into a mirror.  We the viewers act as her mirror.  We see her black face. On the right she gestures towards the dagger as if to say “I just couldn’t help it.”

 

10. EMOTIONAL RE- BIRTH

Just as the visit to The Denier resulted in a radical change in understanding – so again, because I am beginning to confess my violence towards myself – Awareness makes her second appearance.  She is seen with her characteristic blue colour and open eye.  She cradles the head of the wounded woman from the previous picture and allows her vomit to touch her arm without moving away.  With her other hand she touches the murder weapon – the dagger that also looks like a cross.  Once again, she allows the blood to run down her arm without moving away.

How this new awareness of my inner self- harming has come about is seen in the rest of the picture.  The story begins at the lower right with the man in his emotional coffin.  The black-faced Golden Woman is attempting to show remorse for what she has done.  But her tears fall onto the impenetrable roof of the Emotional Coffin.  Yet right beside this absolutely defended emotional position, the Dying Man on the bed has become a younger man.  He is bursting with life.  The bed which became a coffin has now become a boat or a seed.  The woman sitting beside him has an open eye which is repeated in the Awareness figure.

Out of the top of the boat/seed, Four Dancing Men appear.  They dance along the pack of the pair who have previously been killing each other.  Now the Red Murderess embraces the Black Faced Golden Woman.  The fourth man on the left (to viewer) jumps off into the unknown.  He gestures towards the new attitude that is coming up into my consciousness.  A golden, male angel embraces a red mother who cradles a figure who seems to be their adult daughter.  She has a pattern that echoes the diamond shapes seen around the Frozen Mourners at the funeral.  I am beginning to find an inner relationship with my emotional paralysis.

 

 

11. THE PARALYSED WOMAN

Yet, to get in touch with the paralysis of my female self is so difficult.  How not to do it is seen in the Hearty Red Woman at the centre who is trying to make the depressed Grey Woman cheer up.  This just won’t work.  The new life is to be found in a changed relationship with my inner man.  There are three predominantly green figures – the lower left man, the woman with an open eye who is about to start dancing and then the third figure in the pile of four. This green woman has four arms – two lowered and two raised.  The lower pair open to what is going on deep down inside her.  The upper two indicate her new attitude to the male.  He seems to be being born from the dancing part of her as his feet rise from her back. The upper part of his body is encircled with a halo-like shape.  His eyes are open and he is confident.  The top of his head enters the place of my paralysis.

This is the grey almond shape at the top.  In the middle, a stiffened grey woman lies horizontally.  To convey my difficulties in relating to this part of me, I have used the story of the Good Samaritan.  The priest who “passes by on the other side” has become a striding Red Woman.  She is the part of me who is focused on becoming a successful artist.  I have no time for my bad moods or psychological injuries.  The next dancing figure represents the Levite who also passed by on the other side.  This is an aimless sort of Dancing Woman.  She represents the part of me that refuses to look into myself.  The last figure is a female beggar or pilgrim.  She is the “Good Samaritan” – the part of my psyche that I have looked down on, just as the Samaritan was reviled by the society that he lived in.  It is this shadow part of me who turns aside and gives time to enter into my non-being.   

 

PART 3 – THE GIRL CHILD

I am now prepared to face my experience of being a Replacement Child.  I have gained some insight into my shadow where I discovered my self-harming – yet also a God image that engages my humanity and enables me to go beyond my limited, one sided view of the world.  I have a new relationship with my animus – as an emotionally literate male who brings his insight and support to the healing process of the feminine.

 

 

 

12. THE RED SCREAMER

The Abandoned Red Girl who appeared at the end of Part 1 now reappears and fills the whole page from top to bottom.  She has regressed back to being like a genie coming out of a bottle.  She is trying to get the attention of the Grey Mother figure.  But this part of me does not turn around.  I am stuck in my depressive state.  However, there is another aspect of me who can relate to The Screamer – but only on my terms – without the screaming.  The blue part of me bends down and cups the face of my inner child – who trustingly looks up at me.  To the right of this tender mother-daughter image, the daughter is trying to mother the mother.  This is a large curled up woman being embraced by a small child.  The Blue Bending Woman is aware that this upside-down situation where the child is acting like the parent and the parent like the child, is not right.  She reaches up and touches the head of the Grey Woman who has her little feet lightly on the back of the curled-up Mother.  Also coming out of the child mothering the mother image is the Golden Woman. 

Earlier in the story, the Golden Woman had the Denier strapped to her back but this is a dramatically different configuration.  The two women share a black and red egg symbolising death and life as a whole.  Whereas before their relationship was to do with avoiding any sort of pain, they now gaze into each other’s eyes.  They realise their mistake in getting rid of the Red Murderess.  So together they dive down into the abyss where they threw her away.  They find her – but she is not open to their friendship.  It was a terrifying experience to be tossed over that cliff.  Instead, she protects herself and is preparing to run away – towards the tail of The Screamer.  And so, at present the cycle goes round and round.

 

13. BIRTH AND DEATH

It comes to a stop when the search for the Red Woman leads back to the moment of my birth. I now experience a direct link between the death of my father, the death of my brother and the discovery of my birth trauma after my parents’ experience of loss. Once again, I emphasise that this is my imaginative re-telling of the story.  At the lower left, I am with my father. But this time, he is lying in a vulva – the sign of birth. My hands reach out and touch the edge of this birth canal. My seat has become a green vulva and a green girl child is leaping through it. While my father dies, I am being born into a new consciousness. To the right a “Red Man” [1] is stamping on a crouching Grey Woman. At the collective level, the patriarchal culture within me is dying and I am being born into a world where I have my own subjective feminine validity.

The rest of the picture gives a graphic account of how I came to feel that I am a Replacement Child. The top left shows my Mother and Father ecstatically receiving their First-Born Son. There is a special focus on the Mother. We can see both her feet as she lifts her breast joyfully towards her child. The child looks happy at his arrival into the world.

The central section depicts the tragedy of his death. The boy is white. He is drained of his life. He is surrounded by black and then around this is a red libido-filled casket. My horrified parents look at this totally unexpected and sudden death of their first-born son. Whilst my parents were united in the reception of their son, and even in their initial shock at his death, at the top centre they stand together, yet separated by a blue-grey line that goes down into the death scene. Surprisingly, at the lowest level of the centre, there is a green mother with a new child in a lunar landscape.

On the right, I depict my own birth, eighteen months after my brother’s death. I leap into the world, but my parents are locked into a prison of grief.  They turn away. At last I became aware of how the circumstances of my birth had unconsciously ruled my life. It is this discovery that – although painful – has enabled me gradually to change my attitudes and work through this tragedy in a way that is life affirming and creative. I make it sound as though this healing process is something, I undertook myself. It would be much truer to say that the unconscious had its own plans for healing with which I co-operated.

Even at this initial stage, rejection is not the whole story. Although I arrive into a void, without human contact, yet a little later - perhaps just a split second later - my Gold and Red Father reaches up to me and my Gold and Red Mother cradles me. They are the same colour as they were when they received my brother. Thus, the rejection due to loss and grief is brought together with the love I also received.

[1] This character played a major role in an earlier series of 46 paintings made before I knew anything about being a Replacement Child. He embodies a patriarchal worldview that denigrates the earth and all that is feminine. The series is entitled the Heart Garden and at present it is on loan to Holyrood House, a Christian retreat centre in Thirsk, Yorkshire, UK. 

14. ATTENTION SEEKING

My brother’s tragic death overtook my parents just after the second world war had ended. The accepted wisdom of the day was “have another child as soon as possible. Thus, you will get over the death of your other child”. This is what they did and this is the result. They just could not come to terms with what had happened. They had no outside help to experience their natural grief – and so it turned into depression. As the Replacement Child, I am trying to wake them up from their sadness. At first, I try peaceful means and then violent. On the top left, I depict myself as a green toddler. The Grey Parents try to attend to me but find themselves unable to engage with this boisterous new life. Then I try screaming. But they have no ears and turn away, apparently any emotional engagement is just too painful at this point.

It feels to me as though only the dead have their attention, so I throw myself down in an attempt to join the dead. Below the middle Green Toddler, there is a mirror image of the Dead Brother who appears upside down in the grave. And yet, the miracle of the psyche is the drive to become conscious, to forgive and to heal. Another way of putting this is that spiritual insight and awakening comes with seeing the process as a whole.

Five golden Earth Angels are present at the dividing line between the real-life drama and the hidden history of the un-mourned, yet continuously mourned Brother. What seems like an emotional impasse is not so for the Earth Angel aspect of my psyche. Whereas my purely human reactions are locked into repeated patterns of offering myself and rejection, the Earth Angels display a wide range of feeling. They enter into what is happening like outside observers and yet they also participate. The largest one at the front right is ready to take off and move on to the next stage without regrets. 

15.  THE BIRTH OF THE DIVINE GIRL 1

One of the Earth Angels presides over my New Birth. With his wings, he touches the grey pelvic bones that contain the Grieving Parents. The hardness of the coffin has become the hardness of the bones that are needed to give birth. While my Sad Parents turn away, my New Green Parents turn towards me with their full attention. I am lovingly caught and held. In response I reach out, confident that I am wanted. Below, a red Earth Mother holds the vulva as she supports this birthing process.

The discovery of the Earth Angels in my psyche, resulted in my ability to imagine my re-birth. Six years later, thanks to an invitation to be artist-in-residence at Fireflies Ashram in India, I made a monumental sculpture based on this painting. It can be viewed at carolinemackenzie.co.uk under The Girl Child. It also features in Schellinski, (Routledge, 2019), p n.. 

16.  THE BIRTH OF THE DIVINE GIRL 2

The picture is divided in two. I start with the veiled figures at the top. After my emotional re-birth, I become capable of compassion towards myself. Previously, anger was my default position. However, now I can give attention to my depressive states without running away. My running away habit has seen before and will be seen again later on. But here, I allow myself to feel depressed and to fully experience my fear of looking at something. I cover my eyes. I hold myself with a new quality of patience. This contrasts with Hearty Red Woman. At that point I had no time for my depression or anger. I wanted to get out of my “bad moods” as soon as possible, so that I could get on with my “real life” – racing in the rat race! Yet, staying with these uncomfortable feelings, leads to a memory of my rage as a neglected infant. This is what the depression was trying to get at. By not denying it, I become aware and lose my fear of my own fury. At the top right, I hold my Furious Child with awareness – represented by my open eyes. In contrast with my adult depression, this new access to my childhood is full of drama and life.

Arising spontaneously in support of this new attitude, another Birth Mandala appears. As in the previous picture, the Valued Girl Child is at the centre. Unveiled, and painted in bright colours, characters from the traditional Christian Nativity scene are present - yet re-worked to extend the dignity of divinity to include the feminine. The donkey and sheep are present and the ox has become a cow. The royal visitor is a Queen rather than a king. These four characters breathe their life force onto the new Inner Parents who are united with each other and with their Divine and Human Daughter. These three human beings have ears while in the previous picture, they did not. My newly born Self stands up on her own two feet and opens her eyes and arms for all to witness.

 

17.BONDING WITH THE MOTHER

The maternal containment given by Blue Mother Wisdom in the previous picture, gives way to an expression of rage towards my actual parents, particularly my mother.  At the top left, the parents are shown deep in grief for their Lost Boy.  Yet the child himself has disappeared and been replaced by diamond shapes that recall the pattern around the Frozen Mourners at the funeral.  Below the parents is a dark, horizontal figure who seems to have absorbed the feelings of grief and once again, aligns herself with the Dead.

Yet, into this emotional chaos, a ray of light enters.  It touches the blue bundle, that puts out a wavy- line like an umbilical cord that reaches from the place of the Dead Boy, down to the life of the Living Girl.  Another red line goes from the grey mother to the breast of the New Mother.  The power of the human psyche to repair damage is truly extraordinary.  Without my conscious intent, this image presents an idealised but never the less convincing, image of the mother’s undistracted gaze.  The archetypal nature of this experience is emphasised by the twelve petals surrounding the pair.  It reminds me of Hindu Goddesses and also of images of the Christian Madonna and Child.

18. FAREWELL LITTLE BROTHER

Thanks to this new-found emotional and spiritual security, I am at last ready to enter into the memory and feel the pain surrounding the death of my brother. Standing all alone on top of someone else’s coffin – this is what it feels like to be a Replacement Child. I have depicted myself as the grey girl at the top of this picture in a stance that echoes that of the Red Child who appeared at the end of Part 1.  Since then, much has happened in my psyche, so that now I am able to face what happened – as it came to my imagination – and finally to wave good-bye to my brother who died.

The lower section depicts an idyllic Scottish landscape – that is separated from the rest of the picture by a wall. This lower area shows my father and mother with two children. These are my two older brothers, one of whom died.

The top half of the picture depicts the burial and ascension of the dead child as I imagine it. On the left, a squared off night-scene shows the mother cradling a tiny coffin, accompanied by the father. They go to bury their child in a forest.  Around this night scene, four figures accuse the parents. The child himself stands up in his coffin and points his finger. To his left and right the parents’ feelings of guilt accuse the hurrying couple. On the left, a child peeps over the fence. Unlike the other figures, who focus all their attention on the tragic drama, this character looks out at us, the viewers.  This could be me.  Although in real life I was not yet born, it is important to make conscious the guilt I feel for being alive when the other one is dead.

Behind this, there is a yellow ochre “Mountain of Grief” surrounded by grey figures weeping and wailing. In contrast with all of this, on the right, there is a scene of joy. Four green figures wave good-bye to the Child-Angel. He looks up to where I imagine our deceased Grandmother welcoming him into heaven. He also looks back to wave to his parents and two siblings who are now able to say good-bye to him. At the time of the actual burial, only my living brother, my parent’s second son was there with my parents. However, in the context of my grieving process, I have pictured myself in the send-off party for my deceased brother. This is how it feels for me as a Replacement Child to arrive on the earth and to step back into my own life.

 

19.THE GRIEVERS

The grief that found no outlet at the time of the death is like a wall. Each brick contains a tear that was not shed – but that is now shed in consciousness. The sequence of the picture starts at the lower left. My Depression is once again running away from my Anger. But then two Miraculous Red Hands appear and hold me up. These hands hold the Depressed Child me. I can now look over the Grief Wall. I see a large Red Girl, the same colour as the hands. She is the more mature, perhaps teenage aspect of me. She is reaching down right inside the wall. Now, I see something green and alive that seems to be locked into the wall. I see a curled grey person who looks frightened of being found out. She is kneeling. Growing out of her attitude of prayer, a crouching woman appears and at the place of her womb, I can see a child on a golden cross. Planted around the figures in a circle are red seeds or drops of blood. In this living part of the wall, the frozen tears are transforming into new life. The child on the cross could be my dying brother or it could be me. The symbol of the cross signifies unbearable suffering which when entered into, as Jesus entered his suffering – with divine love and consciousness – eventually leads to resurrection.

Picking up the golden yellow colour of the cross, a Wisdom Girl with flaming hair, stands on top of the wall. From her navel, energy flows out and round a group of twelve Grievers. Each one has a candle and at the centre there is a cross signifying both death and resurrection. Each figure is expressing his or her grief in a bodily, dramatic way. What had seemed safer when locked away inside the bricks of the Grief Wall, is now being expressed in a community ritual. 

At the top right I bring the compassion I felt towards my adult depression, to my depressed Inner Child. At the top left, an orange coloured Young Woman has entered into a coffin containing the grey Paralysed Woman.  This pair seem connected but not yet fully involved in the grieving process.

20. AWARENESS

“Standing on top of someone else’s coffin – this is what it feels like to be a Replacement Child”. This is how I felt in number 18. Yet now, here I am in my own right, the same Grey Child with outstretched arms, standing in my own depression – that has echoes of my brother’s coffin – but this is MY LIFE. This is my “coffin”. I have a new look of determination on my face. I am no longer just a spectator. I am at the centre of my own drama. Thanks to the blue Divine Female Wisdom figure, I am beginning to appreciate both sides of the story – my story and that of my parents. I am standing in a play-pen that echoes the colours in the Grief Wall. On either side of the depressive me, I express my rage towards my depressed parents. Although we are on different sides of the Grief-pen, we now consciously share it. Holy Mother Wisdom brings the same compassionate touch to me as to my parents.

The extension of my consciousness through this archetypal figure, enables me to imagine what it would be like to be have my rage and depression met. The green father figure on the left is based on a male therapist that I worked with three years prior to my father’s death. Here I imagine an Inner Father who holds me confidently without judgement and allows me to rage as much as I need to. This connects me to my own mothering capacity which is seen in the orange and grey woman who holds the depressed infant. She has a look of real relationship and concern for her child. She is based on an earlier female therapist. In the previous painting, my Depression is running away from my Anger. In this picture, although they are still separated, each of them stands still and holds out a hand to the other.

 

21. THE MEETING

I am now in relationship with my Dead Brother who is still very much alive in my imagination. He is my Invincible Rival. He stands at the top of the centre. The Golden Boy is held aloft as being “perfect”. His memory has no shadow. Since he got all the attention, a part of me aspired to that same “perfect” status so that I, too, would get the attention I craved. This shadow-less version of me was represented by the Golden Woman who appeared in earlier pictures. We the viewers were all too aware that actually she has a big, black, violent shadow. But it was neatly hidden from her, by being either behind her back or laminated to her face !

But now, I am becoming conscious of my shadow as a violent rage towards my Dead Brother. On the left, I express my fury. On the right, I collapse into depression. Neither of these figures can bear to look at The Golden Boy. It takes the wise part of me that has been developing, to hold my rage. This can be seen in the Wise Blue Woman. This part of me does not judge and does not deny the real force and fury of my feelings. When the child-me says, “That boy stole my love” – I can now accept that this is really how I felt and even now may feel at certain times. In picture 1, I asked everyone including me, to “Look at my hate”. Now, I am feeling my own hate. Looking at the boy who provokes my hate is still impossible for the child part of me. But I have discovered that the source of my emotion lies in a tragedy. The circumstances that gave rise to them were not intentional. My Anger and Depression now meet as children who embrace one another. They stand in the womb of an Adult Weeper. Seven huge tears fertilize both the past and the present. Love becomes possible again. This is seen in the three vignettes at the bottom.

 

21_The Meeting v 1
21_The Meeting v2
21_The Meeting v3

22. THE FEELING TREES

My new relationship between my conscious me, myself, with the Masculine comes to the centre. I picture myself as an infant in the lap of my father. To the left, my parents are freely expressing their grief for their son who died and are receiving the sympathy and comfort that earlier was unavailable to them. Now that I have received love and sympathy myself, I am able to feel sympathy for them. The tears of my Inner Father are made up of blood and water. They penetrate the earth where the roots of the Feeling Trees are found. These roots go under the Grief Wall. The roots take in the goodness of the tears and blossom with leaves of many colours. To the lower right, in the earth fertilized by these tears, a Grey and Red Girl is embraced by a Grey and Orange Boy. My Brother is no longer purely golden and neither am I. Behind the pair, the words are written, “Look Little Sister, I didn’t mean to die. It was a tragic accident.” Above this, I imagine myself gazing into my brother’s eyes. We are connected by our arms and feet. At the same time, we stand back in admiration and to give each other space. The brightly coloured leaves of the two trees signify the rich emotional life that comes out of genuine grief.