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How creativity helped me navigate grief

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Grief is something that we will all experience at some point, but it’s also an experience for which there is very little preparation—and it’s rarely talked about in a practical manner.

When my partner died, I expected to be sad, even distraught. But nothing prepared me for the full-body experience; I felt the earth tilt, time slow. I was exhausted and there was a pervading despondency.

Most days, I managed to walk our dogs and some days the walking was easier than others. As time went by, it was suggested I take up some of the things used to bring me joy.

I have been in love with photography since my dear Uncle presented me with my first camera on my 18th birthday. Photography was the obvious place to start, but what should I photograph?

I had very little interest in anything…so as I ‘saddled-up’ the dogs, I took my partner’s digital camera on our daily trudges.

At first, pressing the shutter was arbitrary and lack-lustre. Weeks went by and finally, images were downloaded.

Much to my surprise, some of them were interesting, which at least prompted an involuntary smile and got me thinking.

Next, I purchased an ND filter, which allowed me to make longer exposures. My walks now had a purpose and I continued to experiment.

As a collection of ‘wobbly’ photos emerged, I stuck them to a wall, added to them, grouped them, tore some down.

It was not until I started the PhotoAccess Concept to Exhibition course that I realised that these photos expressed exactly how I was feeling at the time: wobbly.

The photos show how every atom in my universe was shifting and reconfiguring. Somehow, through photography, I was now able to articulate my feelings.

This creativity has been an invaluable part of my healing and my understanding of humanity.

A selection of Tessa’s work is on display in a group exhibition The Journey Through at the PhotoAccess Huw Davies Gallery.

This exhibition is part of the 2020 Concept to Exhibition Class led by Canberra photographer Grace Costa. The exhibition opens at 6 pm on Thursday 17 September and is on until the 8 October, Tuesday to Saturday 10 am–4 pm.

Feature image: Tessa Ivison

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