This week's guest blogger is Claire Perkins — an artist, author, and expressive arts coach. During an experience of deep grief, Claire discovered the healing and awakening power of expressive art and journaling, which she now brings to her clients. Trained in the Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA) method, Transformational Life Coaching, Active Dreaming and SoulCollage®, she gently guides people to deeper self awareness, inner healing and awakening with a juicy mix of simple expressive art, dream work and journaling.
The Non-Dominant Hand as a Guide Through Grief
Fifteen years ago, after years of struggling with his addiction, my eldest son died of an accidental overdose at age 26. My worst nightmare had come to pass. It was a grief unlike anything I'd ever experienced.
Yet by some stroke of divine order, six months prior to Cameron's death, I had begun studying with Lucia Capacchione and learning, among other things, the power of drawing and journaling with my non-dominant hand. Who knew that my own left hand would become so instrumental in leading me through grief into healing?
About a week before Cameron died, I had an ominous dream in which a giant wave - like a tsunami - came crashing up through city streets and skyscrapers. In a room in one of the buildings, I could see a small, frightened boy. When I awoke from this dream, I sensed it had something to do with my son and it left me feeling uneasy. I had often thought of him as drowning - drowning in an ocean of unhappiness, anger and addiction. I titled the dream, "The Big Wave."
When I learned of Cameron's death a week later, I knew that the Big Wave had finally claimed him. He had drowned in the sea of his addiction.
I turned to the collage I'd created from my dream seeking wisdom, guidance and healing as the tsunami of grief crashing over me threatened to drown me as well.
I began a two-handed dialoguing process and, over a few days time, spoke with every image in the collage by asking questions with my dominant hand and allowing the images to answer through my non-dominant hand.
Each and every image had powerful wisdom and healing to share with me, and all the dialogues are included in my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society (https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Water-Leaf-Society/dp/0982105614/). But perhaps the most surprising conversation of all was the one I had with the surfer at the top left of my collage.
Dominant Hand (DH): Hello Surfer - who are you?
Non-Dominant Hand (NDH): It's me, Mom. Look at me - I'm riding the wave! It's wild and dangerous and so much fun! Mom, I'm happy. It's all good. I had a short ride, but what a rush!
DH: So you feel good then? Happy? Satisfied?
NDH: Mom, I didn't drown. Not like you think. I just grabbed a board and hung on for a wild and crazy ride. Don't cry, Mom - please? That makes me sad.
DH: I'm sorry to cry, but I'll miss you. I didn't think of your life as a lot of fun. I thought you were hurting and in pain.
NDH: But it was all part of the ride. Really. It's ok. I'm free. I'm happy. I'm moving on.
DH: What is it that I can do for you?
NDH: You've done it all, Mom. Now it's my turn to do for you.
DH: What gift or wisdom do you bring to me?
NDH: Freedom. Live your life, Mom. Ride your own wave. I love you.
Sometimes as I write with my non-dominant hand, I wonder where the words are coming from. But in this instance there was no doubt in my mind that it was truly Cameron who was speaking to me, urging me to see his life and death differently, urging me to live my own life fully in spite of this loss.
While the dialogues with the images in my Big Wave collage often evoked a flood of tears, I felt safe and protected somehow. Every voice seemed to encourage me to see that love was all that mattered and all that was real. That love would heal all wounds. That love never dies.
When the woman at the bottom right, the one with her eyes closed, said through the non-dominant hand that she felt as though the weight of this loss would crush her and that she would drown in her tears, the other woman had a different point of view.
DH: And so, finally, to you - the woman with her eyes wide open. Who are you?
NDH: I am you.
DH: And how do you feel?
NDH: So many things. Joy one moment and sorrow the next. But look at me - I'm dressed for swimming. We will keep our eyes wide open even when we are immersed in the sea. It will never overwhelm us. We are safe.
DH: And what can I do for you?
NDH: You are doing it. Living. Loving. Feeling. Growing. This is why we are here.
DH: I know this is true. What gift or wisdom do you bring to me?
NDH: We shall see, Claire. We shall see . . .
During the six months prior to Cameron's death, I had been learning to use all the healing tools and processes of Lucia Capacchione's Creative Journal Expressive Arts, including listening to the wisdom of my "other" hand. And for that I am truly grateful.
While dialoguing with the images in my Big Wave collage was only the first step in a very long journey through grief into healing, my non-dominant hand would continue to lead the way.
Claire Perkins, CJEA
The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief
Fallen: The Adventures of a Deep Water Leaf
Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com