Turning to Art in Grief
What has loss brought you? After the stillbirth of my son almost five years ago, art has carried me through the deepest despair.
My husband Matt and I met on Halloween, got engaged on Halloween, and got married on Halloween. We moved from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia and bought a house. Then, we got pregnant.
We were absolutely elated. We had a textbook healthy pregnancy. All scans were normal, our baby was measuring on course, and my body felt energized and strong. We had done all the first-time parent things to prepare–read the books, researched the products, prepared the nursery, and celebrated with friends and family. We couldn’t wait to meet our baby.
But, when I was just one week from our due date, our son died. The night it happened, I had eaten a slice of birthday cake leftover from Matt’s birthday celebration, but I couldn’t feel him moving.
We rushed to the hospital, driving 90 on the interstate. When we arrived, the nurse tried to find his heartbeat with a doppler. She left to get the doctor. The doctor entered with an ultrasound machine, the screen purposefully turned away from our view. She said, “I’m so sorry sweetheart, your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.”
We were in shock. Can’t you do something? What happens now?
There was nothing that could be done. October’s heart just stopped beating and we had no explanation for his death. It was an unfathomable betrayal.
Delivering and holding our precious baby was the most unbearable thing I will ever experience. He was perfect. He had my husband’s dark features, my mother’s brow, and my cheeks and hands.
A volunteer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep visited us in the hospital. She was there for our baby in ways we couldn’t be, and is one of the few people who was able to meet him. She took the most beautiful photos of our son and treated him with such comfort and care. The photos are one of the few physical things we have left of October, and are our most cherished pieces.
We were full of anger and heartbreak. Leaving our son’s body behind and coming home to a space that was fully prepared for a newborn was a kind of hell. I was emotionally spent and I quit my job as a therapist for a work from home position. I started watercoloring with my morning coffee as a way to process my grief and keep my mind silenced. I was fixated on the body, perhaps because I felt like mine had failed us.
We kept October’s memory alive in ways we could—we tattooed his name into our arms, pressed leaves that reminded us of him, and used his name on our coffee orders to hear it spoken aloud. We decorated a special area in our home with his portraits from NILMDTS and the urn that holds his ashes.
A few months later we were pregnant again, but it was difficult to believe we’d ever get to bring a baby home. I didn’t leave the house much that year, but I continued making art and evolving my creative process.
One year and 5 days after October’s passing, our second son was born. We named him Hue for bringing color back to us.
Over the next couple of years, my art practice went from our kitchen table, to our guest room, and then to my own designated studio space. I experimented with many styles and mediums–sculpting, painting, macrame, collage–trying to find what felt right. We went on to have a daughter named Elm, and I’ve been able to pursue my creative passion full-time while being home with my children. Now, I finally feel that I’ve found my artistic voice, and it’s because of October.
To commemorate this October which marks five years without our son, and also happens to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, Matt and I collaborated on an art piece that we hope will provide comfort and connection to the loss community. We hope it speaks to those who have experienced child and/or parenthood loss in its many forms (miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, and infertility).
The October Print is an abstract art piece depicting the journey of pregnancy and loss as landscape. Each print is hand-stamped and each inked impression is one-of-a-kind. A portion of the sale of each piece will be donated to NILMDTS. We are so grateful for everything they gave to us and continue to give to others at their most vulnerable and life-shattering time.
You can purchase the October Print – https://shopfigureform.com/
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@fgrfrm What has loss brought you? The month of October is around the corner, and it will mark five years without our son. Leading up, I wanted to share my story in a detailed, visual way, because loss is how Figure Form came to be. And because October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more about our experience, honoring children lost, and sharing a very special art piece that I hope will provide comfort and connection. If you or someone close has lost a pregnancy/baby/child, I’d love for you to share their name in the comments. Has their loss brought you something? If you’ve battled infertility, has the journey brought you something? I’d love to hear. 🧡 I’ll go first: My son October Grove, whose life and death have given me a stronger sense of self, fearlessness, and drive for those I love. #stillbirth #stillbirthawareness #miscarriage #miscarriageawareness #infertility #infertilityjourney #childlosssupport #childlossawareness #pregnancyandinfantloss ♬ where is my mind (piano version) – your movie soundtrack
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