When I was a teenager, I was an artist. Painting was a therapeutic release for me. It helped me to outwardly express in a positive manner my inner anguish, anger and pain from abuse and other traumatic experiences in my life. It was part of my normal to paint and create something on canvas; expressing the emotions that I need to; and then repaint the canvas white and do something else.

I do not own any artwork from that period in my life. This is probably a good thing, as seeing some of the things that I created, might take me back to dark places and thoughts that while I have worked on, could cause me to be in a bad place.

Painting was always a therapeutic process for me. I did not paint to become a working artist or to sell anything. I painted for myself, to help myself work through what I needed to work through, all the displaced emotion that I had built up inside of me.

At some point in my life, art and trauma became intertwined in my brain; and it hit its peak in March 2005, when my grandpa was diagnosed with end stage cancer that progressed rather quickly; we lost him in July 2005.

During March 2005, I was already in college and I was enrolled in several art classes. It was during that time that I created my last “finished” art piece. I implemented several new techniques when I created my piece, and used a larger size canvas than I was accustomed to. Due to family circumstances and my helping to care for my grandfather during his final months here on earth, I needed to get my emotions out on canvas prior to going back to where my father and grandparents live; as I was unable to do so for the 4 months we took care of him.

The process of working on this painting was very therapeutic for me, and you can see the all the emotions and hope in the piece.

In the time since losing my grandpa in July 2005 till February 2012, I did not “finish” another art piece. I had one piece that I had worked on the year after I lost my grandpa but I could not finish it.

I had a “painter’s block”. The ideas were there. My mind is often filled with a thought or idea here or there. I could not start or finish anything.

There is this connection in my brain, between painting and trauma and pain and loss. They are all intertwined. When I try to paint I go back to the loss or the pain or previous traumas; like the process and everything goes hand in hand. Processing and expressing emotions are one.

Between losing Greg andFebruary of 2012 (23 months), I did not pick up a paintbrush and dappled in acrylics on a canvas to create a piece of art. I have done a few crafty things like putting blue paint on a canvas and writing a phrase over it that Greg always encouraged me with or covering a wooden frame with one color of paint (neither of which is “painting”) and I have done several other creative things (such as writing, blogging and crocheting, and creating things to decorate Greg’s grave) and recently, messed around with oil pastels just to mess with, but as for actually “painting” and creating a work of art, that is another story.

At first, after Greg’s accident I was just processing everything, instead of needed to express everything. That is a difference for me in experiencing sudden loss with Greg and anticipated loss with my grandfather.

After experiencing sudden loss, I was still in shock and absorbing what had happened and taking it all in, processing the loss; at the time that was what I needed to do, instead of expressing all the pain, emotions, etc. and letting it out in an artistic and therapeutic way. I was in shock and I needed to process and “take in” everything. Instead of when I found out about my grandfather and I needed to express and “release” everything.

I would like to be at a point where I can paint once again and finish something. I want to be at a point where while painting is therapeutic for me, it is no longer intertwined with my past trauma experiences, but it is once again a helpful outlet.

I would like to be able to paint again and express the emotions outwardly that I am unable to feel. I feel a lot of emotion on a daily basis but I am also numb as well. Some days I feel the emotion displaced in other areas of my body; when painting used to be able to help with that.

Since February of this year, I have off and on tried painting again. But it is a process in and of itself. I can sit there all I want and “wait” for it to come, or I can sit there and try to work on something but the “feeling” and connection are just not there.

I created a small 4×4 abstract piece that I call “Chaos”, fitting for my first project. It just painted through me. In many aspects after loss, our life is chaotic, our normal is no longer what it once was, we are no longer who we were before experiencing loss. It is much smaller than anything I have created before, but I think it is finished. I do not want to add to it and ruin it. That was in March and I have not painted since.

The thing about any kind of block, be it writer’s block, artist’s block, etc., it takes a while to work through. One day painting and trauma will not be as intertwined for me as they have previously been.

I used to be an artist. Somewhere deep inside, I still am.

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Brandi Reyna

Ms. Reyna is a creative soul with a passion for helping others. Her faith is very important to her and is reflected in her writings. She writes about her faith and the role it plays in her grieving process and how she grieves. Ms. Reyna's purpose for writing is to give voice to and shed light on unique losses. Ms.Reyna's articles focus primarily on building and living a new life after the sudden loss of her fiancé; the subsequent grief associated with sudden loss, her identification as an "unwedded widow" (a widow who was not legally married to her beloved), loss of a parent (grandparent) and creating a new life while living with loss. Ms. Reyna shares her journey to encourage others in their own faith and in their own healing journey. She hopes that by sharing her story and leading by example through her own life that her journey will show others that we can experience significant and impactful losses and still experience a full and joy-filled life after loss. Ms. Reyna holds a Master of Arts degree in Professional Studies with a specialization in Counseling.

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