How does grief appear as a pure emotion on the outside of the body? It’s natural to turn away from grief and death yet Sarah has been discovering that there is beauty in both.
At the age of 32 Sarah’s life shattered. Her beloved sister and best friend left this world forever leaving behind two young children. Grief and all of its many forms were suddenly her whole world. At that time, She was introduced to the groundbreaking work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her research into death, dying and grief. Through countless interviews Kubler-Ross discovered five stages of grief that people move through emotionally: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Sarah has bumped up against these stages multiple times in life both personally and professionally as an RN working in palliative care. Over the years she has realized that grief is not only universal but highly individual. For example when her father died suddenly from meningitis the emotional experience was much different than when her beloved grandmother chose her own passing with medical assistance and requested Sarah be at her side.
As Sarah has processed over the years she has created her own stages of grief based on emotions that do not fit into academic labels: Rollercoaster, Hold on and keep your shit together, Looking for signs, Swimming in a sea of no-one gets it, Calm that comes after, Letting go, Time expands, Time contracts, Thrown for a loop, and many more. These are unique installations based on the emotions of grief all made with handmade paper, natural dyes and paints.
Sarah is interested in how humans feel compelled to leave a permanent mark on the earth and believes this is associated with our fear of death and being forgotten. Perhaps because we know our time is limited we strive to make ourselves permanent in some way. Why is it so hard to accept that we will soon be compost? There was a time that humans did not see themselves as separate from nature. Can we allow ourselves to be reinserted back into nature, including our art? Sarah is exploring these questions through her own personal journey of grief and loss. She has been exploring how the knowledge that death could come at any moment creates the ability to live in the moment, opening new avenues of expression.
With the impacts of climate change such as fires and flood, Covid 19, and wars there is a collective sense of grief, loss and coping with change. Grief is universal in many ways yet diverse in the way people experience it depending on the loss, culture, expectations of how to grieve and intergenerational trauma. Sarah hopes to illuminate that there can be beauty in grief and that each person has their own right way to express it. Sometimes grief can be a spark for social change or a personal change. For Sarah, she has turned to nature and has reflected that in her pieces by creating with mostly recycled or natural materials that she has grown in her garden or collected from her surrounding neighbourhood. Her hope is that the work helps others to understand their own relationship to loss, impermanence, nature and grief.