We all know the key life events that can cause us significant stress; bereavement, relationship breakdown, moving house are perhaps the most obvious ones.
Last year I found myself facing all three of these within a short period of time along with a significant family trauma. At the time it felt like my world was folding in on me. I allowed it to affect some of my friendships and I found myself having to make some tough decisions to protect my interests. It seemed everything I had was slipping away.
We all now find ourselves at a very difficult time, where our normal way of life has been turned on it’s head by Covid19. Stress, anxiety, depression, grief will unfortunately affect more and more of us, particularly as none of us can confidently predict when this will all end and what things will be like once we get back to “normal”.
But end it will, and whilst we all deal with grief in different ways, I feel compelled to share how I am coping with my personal traumas from last year. Note I said “I am coping” and not the past tense “I coped”, because grief doesn’t have an expiry date although it gets easier over time.
They say there are 5 stages to grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Whilst I did, and to some extent still am experiencing all 5, for me it wasn’t always in a linear way. I missed out anger altogether with the bereavement I faced, but found I was stuck in the depression stage for a long time. For some of the other traumas I had there was little depression but I’d return back to anger or the denial stage again and again. These weren’t conscious decisions but instead was how my subconscious was dealing with what I was going through.
For a long time I couldn’t face picking up my camera, but when I eventually did I wanted to express what I was going through with my images, and I actually found the whole process very cathartic, I still do.
I’ve taken many shots that have helped me deal with my grief. I believe passionately in being honest in my photography and some images I took are still too raw to see the light of day, but some, like these following shots, I am more comfortable about sharing.
Many will find them depressing and given what I was….am going through may suggest it is unhealthy to dwell on such a subject matter. Whilst this may be true for some people, for me they helped me reach the fifth stage of grieving, that is why I call this series of images “Acceptance”.
It began with the idea of taking unconventional self portraits. Not a “selfie” in the traditional sense of the word, but instead shots of objects that echoed how I was feeling. Things that were broken, damaged, isolated were all subjects for this series. At the same time I wanted to explore the effects the passage of time. The Yin and Yang of change, the loss associated with decay and the optimism that change can bring.
These shots echo my feelings of grief, sadness and loss. The images represent death, but the process of creating them encouraged me to face my feelings, recognise what I was going though and to own my grief. I interpreted "death" in these images both as my mother's passing but also the fading of my grief over time.
This is just one of my projects on this subject but as I said, a cathartic process bringing me closer to acceptance. I am also lucky to have some good friends who have stuck by me and one very special person in particular who I'd be completely lost without (thanks DL!).
(Despite my high minded artistic endeavours, you'll see from the last photo that having a cat around always helps to keep things in perspective...)