Artists, however, can be impacted by these life events in ways that non-creative people are not. Personal devastation and loss can easily derail an artist's creative drive and career for good. One of the saddest things I have ever heard---and I have heard it more frequently than comfort allows--- is : "I just can't oil paint since Charlie died. I may never paint again". "I haven't been in my studio since Barbara and I divorced". "I'm in so much pain, I can't even pick up a brush". "After job hunting all day, I'm so tired that I can't even think about painting". And I have known folks who truly never did paint again. And, in my mind, that is just as tragic as the event that caused it.
By nature, artists are sensitive souls. That's what gives Art it's "juicy-ness", it's spark---the artist's keen sensitivity to and unique perception of the world around them. It is understandable that any of these jarring life events would put us off kilter. But I maintain, just when an artist is at her lowest, that's when she needs most to create Art ...as if her life depended upon it.
The creation of Art will get you through the most difficult times of your life--- more than anything I know. Take a moment to regain your footing, take a deep breath, then get back to your Art. At first, it will be a struggle. You probably won't have the energy for it. You likely will not feel it in your heart ... but do it anyway. Work through it and before you know it, you'll be back to making Art. You don't have to create a masterpiece. All you may be able to do is create a mindless doodle. A simple sketch. It's not the final product that is important. It's the exercise, the process. This applies not only to the visual arts. It holds true for any creative pursuit.
And the adversity you endured could very well enhance your Art. The overwhelming feeling that nearly brought you to your knees, channel that into your Art. The very creation of Art---of any kind---is life affirming. Regain your life through Art.
And if you don't believe me, there's an entire field devoted to just this very thing . It is called Art Therapy. It aids the bereaved, abuse victims, crime victims, accident victims, soldiers debilitated by injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and many others. Children and adults of any age greatly benefit from it. I've seen it work wonders first hand---even for those who aren't artists, those who are the most hardened skeptics.
How many famous artists have suffered from mental or physical illness, unimaginable tragedy and persevered in spite of it. Still created their greatest Art? One example, Frida Kahlo. She suffered chronic physical pain, often creating her art while immobilized, bedridden. I maintain that the chief way she endured this constant torment was through her Art. Her infirmity is a central theme found in many of her works.
Study after study have shown that the creative process alters and enhances brain chemistry, releasing the very chemicals that promote happiness and serenity. And isn't that exactly what you need most in order to cope with life's traumatic events?
I have seen the healing benefits of creativity in my own life. My Mom and Dad were married for 40 years when my Dad died. To say that my Mom was devastated was an understatement. He was the only man she had ever loved and when he died, she was utterly lost, as if the ground beneath her feet had suddenly vanished and she had nothing to hold onto. Alarmingly, she would remark to me: "I don't want to go on without your father. I can't do it. I don't know how. I don't want to". Luckily, with the help of a bereavement support group, things got better and she learned to cope with this loss. She began attending a music class---designed specifically for mature students, who had lost a spouse--- where she learned to play the piano, the first musical instrument she had ever played, at age 62. This class gave her a new found excitement for life and distracted her from the paralyzing sadness of her loss. Everyday she would call me on the phone to proudly play the latest song she had learned in class. It was a joy for me to hear her so enthused, especially when I thought she would never be happy again. And in this class she had made new friends, who supported one another through their common bond of grief. I really can't imagine how my Mom would have made it without this class. And mind you, my Mom didn't have a creative bone in her body. But she found her way back to life with the help of a creative outlet.
I, myself, have experienced loss---death, estrangement, unemployment, chronic illness--- which had brought me to the lowest depths. (This admission is not to elicit pity, but to demonstrate that I know of which I speak). During these times, I was lost, dejected, sometimes angry, in despair. I had lost my faith in nearly everything, as well as, my joy. I didn't even know where to start rebuilding my life nor did I imagine I could. But in every instance, I turned to Art for solace and comfort. I just picked up a brush, a pencil or a pen and lost myself in the creative process. And you want to know what? Things really did get better! Some of my best Art was created during these periods of life reconstruction.
I'm not saying that Art is going to solve all your problems. But when you're stuck, when you don't know where to turn, when you are so overwhelmed by grief, confusion, anger, despair---whatever---Art will definitely see you through it until you can arrive safely on the other side of it. Art can save your life.