When connecting with others who are grieving, we obviously have one big thing in common. A death in our lives. An ending we did not want to come. Then there are other similarities we may find, like sudden loss, or long-term illness, or suicide. Then other similarities still may come… the myriad of “me too”s that arise when we begin to share about widow brain, or sleepless nights, or trying to date again, or managing as the only parent.
All of this requires us to have one other thing in common too though - the willingness to be vulnerable. Without that, we will not share, and we will never learn about all the many other things we have in common. You don’t have to be an artist to create. Creating doesn’t have to mean art. Creating is about connection… a deeper connection to yourself and to others. That is now how I see it.
For the past week, I’ve been working tirelessly on something I would have never imagined myself doing before my fiance died. It is a proposal for a photography grant which, if chosen, would provide me funding and mentorship to take my career to the next level. This opportunity has forced me to sit down and reflect on a very deep level about my journey not only with photography, but also with grief...
When Drew was alive, I was working a corporate job, unhappily, and was just beginning to take pictures. Back then, it was a lifelong dream to be an artist, with no real steps toward it. I didn’t really even know what being a professional artist would entail, I just knew that there was a call for something bigger in my heart.
So something that first began as just a dream from childhood, suddenly had a very different purpose in my life when my fiance died and grief entered. I took pictures of my pain. I learned that making things from my most vulnerable feelings and sharing them with others not only helped me to heal but it also helped others feel less alone too. I learned that what we created together was in fact the most powerful part of all - a connection. And this is what grief has taught me about most - connection and community. It is that connection to others who are grieving that has helped me to heal even more deeply these six years. My connection to all of you, and to everyone I have met at Camp Widow, and to countless others who are grieving.
Every time we boldly risk opening up this incredibly vulnerable, fragile, broken part of ourselves to one another, we create something. A connection. A pathway for a healing exchange to occur. This is true whether we are grieving the death of someone, suffering from depression or addiction, or any other struggle in life. When we choose to be vulnerable, we create more than just connection too. We create healing and hope. We create a feeling of belonging. We create a way forward. We create love.
As I sit here, writing a proposal for why I deserve to be given $25,000, I am in awe of it all. Six years ago, I wouldn’t be able to come up with that reason. Honestly, a week ago I was still struggling with why. But today, and after a lot of hours of reflecting and appreciating this week, I know exactly why I deserve this.
Because I can share through my photos, writing, workshops and speaking engagements more about this right here. I can share everything I’ve learned from this experience, and from this community. I can share about creating connection and the power it has to transform lives in beautiful and meaningful ways. To bring comfort. To remind people that their pain matters, and their love matters, they matter. To feel like we belong. And all of this starts with one simple commonality - daring to be vulnerable with another and begin a connection.
Whether we do so in a photograph or a simple chat over coffee, each time we dare to be vulnerable, we are creating… taking one more brave step forward through an unthinkable fog. And that is what I will be telling them in my proposal. It is about more than creating art, it is about creating a way forward.