Abigail shared her thoughts with us after taking part in Journey On, The Red Pencil (Singapore)’s eight-week art therapy programme for grieving caregivers.
1. Describe your overall experience with Journey On. Why did you decide to sign up?
In the beginning, I felt worried that this programme would unearth my grief which may cause me to go hysterical. But I felt that I have some grief inside that I could pour out, because it was not healthy to keep it in as it would grow into something unpleasant and would negatively impact my emotional and mental well-being.
Initially, I was shy about my feelings but as the sessions progressed, I have learnt to let it go and I could also see that it was healthy that my course mates are getting their consolation through the programme, in their own way by sharing and pouring out their feelings.
2. How different is art therapy from talking to a counsellor or a friend?
Art therapy is about you and your way of expressing yourself through art. We were advised to pick colours that relate to our lost ones, then express it out for the first artwork. It was a very individual experience; whether you know how to draw/paint well, it does not matter.
When you use your strokes, it is to express whatever emotions/things on your mind that is causing the grief. Through this experience, I find it therapeutic.
Every week, we also have different poems relating to grief. This helps with the change of emotions and the way we think. The mixed medium artwork allows the journey to be more meaningful, as we are not limited to just one type of medium like water colour, poster colour or oil painting.
3. Share about your artwork that you have done and how it has helped you through your grief journey.
At the start, I was worried that I was not grieving enough for my lost ones, however, after the sessions, I found that I have grieved through the artwork I’ve done in Journey On, where it represents all my loved ones whom I’ve lost.
In my artwork, there are cards that I have cut out that are words that coincidentally, are words my lost ones have said to me when they were still around. For example, words like ‘do your best’ are what my mum always said to me as an encouragement. And ‘always smile’ is something my dad liked to tell me. I also used different colours to represent my lost ones, for example, gold represents an auntie who felt like a godmother to me and my mother, silver represents my dad and green represents another auntie I was taking care of previously.
The colours used in my artwork are an addition to the goodness of my lost ones and a way to treasure all the nice moments I have with them. They are in bright colours because it is in dull moments that I can still derive joy, to survive in life.
Lastly, the flower in my artwork represents my lost ones who are currently in a place where they are blossoming in their own way.
4. How would you encourage grieving caregivers to join future session of Journey On?
They should not be afraid to cry in front of others or feel embarrassed. Even though they will meet new people through this eight-week programme, as they get to know their course mates, they will learn that their course mates are there to support them as they learn about each other’s stories. To realize that they are all in the same boat and sailing together on this journey.
The credentialed art therapist is also there to explain to them that art therapy is not about knowing how to do art, but it is about their emotions, and the way they want to express it. Your artwork need not look aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly, you will feel good expressing your emotions through the artwork you do. Journey On is a programme that can create an environment to allow individuals to open up their bottled emotions.