Friday, October 7, 2011

Creating through the pain...

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Pablo Picasso ~

The ARTS and Artists have a way of reaching into the depths of your soul and pulling something out of you that sometimes is quite profound. These things have deeper meaning to the beholder, but also TO THE ARTIST. ~Donna Arena~

'You sheltered me from harm, kept me warm, kept me warm, you saved my life from me, set me free, set me free...the finest things I ever knew, were all the things I had with you...I would give EVERYTHING I OWN give up my life... my home...I would give EVERYTHING I OWN, just to have you back again...."
"Everything I Own" by David Gates and Bread

The first time I heard this song I thought the writer was referring to the fact he had loved and lost and was wanting his former love back again, that he missed her, wanted her and needed her and was lamenting about that and the time they shared together.

A few short weeks ago I found out the inspiration behind the lyrics, and while I had always loved that song, once I found out the REAL meaning behind it, it changed me forever.

December 7th 2006

s a day I will never forget. We were contacted by our ex-son in law because he was dropping our 2yr. old granddaughter off with our daughter and she was not answering her door. Shortly after we contacted maintenance for the apartment building, he then called the security guard for the building, they contacted the police, and then they contacted the forensics unit. Soon helicopters were flying over, teams of people were searching the grounds and the yellow tape went up.
At that point, and as a mother, I somehow knew that just days before while planning to go shopping for Christmas with my daughter, that would be the last time I would see or talk to her...ever.
A mother’s instincts are usually right, and as we sat waiting in the freezing weather we were summoned into her apartment. It was immaculate and everything seemed to be in order. We were then lead into her bedroom and I saw a big circle cut out of her carpet and a somewhat smaller one cut out of the wall. Her comforter was missing off her bed...she was nowhere to be found...
We endured what seemed like the longest Holiday season ever, but still celebrated for the sake of our granddaughter.

The New Year came and went but I was slowly deteriorating. I had stopped doing pretty much everything I used to do. Making jewelry which had brought me so much JOY, was now to painful, much less enjoyable, because me and my daughter Jessica used to sit down at night for hours on end listening to the stereo and beading our little hearts out!

Fast forward to February 2007

After time I had started to abuse my prescription helped me forget about everything, until I woke up the next day hung over from them and still no news of where my daughter my heart I knew where she was but couldn't acknowledge it in my head. My husband and I agree a Treatment Center would be my best option to try to rid us of this addiction. So I went.....
On Feb. 6th he comes to tell me that my brother had passed away from a coronary heart attack...and I cried and he said wait there's more news...they found Jesse...I was ELATED!!! But he wasn' it finally sunk in...I had lost my brother...AND my daughter....I checked out of treatment early and went home to bury my daughter. I flew my mom in from Florida and we buried Jessica the next day…my Mom’s birthday…

Life went on over a period of several years I had attempted suicide several times, not even thinking what it would mean to those who loved me. I felt useless, lost, and alone and betrayed by God. I quit doing pretty much everything including leaving the house, cleaning, cooking, dressing and so much more.
During some of the times I was “locked up” because I was either suicidal or homicidal, I did find some comfort and peace during Arts & Crafts, my only consistent activity while there was coloring in my granddaughters coloring books. At that time I did not have to talk to anyone, think about anything and could create some beauty in an otherwise drab existence I called my life.
Fast forward to Spring of 2011-
Hubby and I were keeping my granddaughter on the weekends. My granddaughter was the spitting image of my daughter Jessica and acted just like her too. It was a double edged sword, JOY @ being blessed to have her in our lives, a living, breathing, walking, talking, laughing, smiling angel from heaven. SADNESS@ she was growing up without a Mom, answering her questions about why her Mom died, with no good responses to give, and that she was SO MUCH like Jess when she was growing up, a constant reminder of our loss. The fact that four people who she was close to she had lost in her short time on this earth.

Alyssa was always going to my abandoned beading table and constantly asking about the beads and stones, looking at them and wanting to play with them. She’d also go to all the finished pieces that I had listed before and closely inspecting them. Always commenting on how beautiful and sparkly they were and every weekend asking me to show he how to make them or asking why don’t I sell them anymore.

This went on for a few months till I finally after so many lame excuses, I felt I should tell he the real reason why I didn’t bead any longer. I told her it was hard to do that because of such fond memories I had doing that with her mother and that she wasn’t around to do it with anymore. She so sweetly told me “Nana, you can bead with me and we can make pretty necklaces and jewelry. You can teach ME and then I can learn, and we can bead together.

I could not say no to such an innocent request, and I thought, in the grand scheme of things, this was as it should be. I had such a passion to create beautiful things for others to admire and hopefully buy. It never had actually been about selling it anyway, just about creating it. I started slowly (it had been four years). It felt RIGHT, and GOOD, and finally I was at peace again, doing what I so loved doing, and now with a new partner….

Fast forward
May 2011
I opened my new shop under my NEW name ...This is not the end but the beginning of a fresh new chapter in my life. “Artistry is an outward expression of an inward feeling”, sometimes what you cannot say you can express with your art… ~A quote by me ~ Donna Arena~
By the way, about David Gates song “Everything I own”…it was written as a beautiful tribute to his father after his untimely death. Again…creating through the pain…

There are so many other examples; too many to list, of Art created solely from the pain of a loss…very famous ones in fact.

I used my creativity and my strong desire to create to help me through some very tough times. Many people find their creative outlet is a way to “work out their demons” or stress, depression, contemplate and even discover more about themselves. There is even a specific, defined therapy dedicated to using ART to assist in therapeutic methods. I found a very useful site that describes how 9/11 survivors did just that in a recent gathering at an art exhibit dedicated to them and curated by them.

More information about using ART as Therapy:

And from Wikipedia:

The American Art Therapy Association describes it this way, "art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art."


  1. Wow, what a moving and powerful piece. I'm so sorry for your back to back loss and want to thank you so much for sharing your story. You have a gorgeous little granddaughter that is wise beyond her years.

  2. ((((Hugs)))) What a precious gift you have in Alyssa!

  3. This is so moving. I'm heartened that your art (and your wise granddaughter) has given you the strength to get through so much unbearable hardship.

    Thank you for sharing your story and sharing your beautiful pieces with all of us.

  4. moved to tears reading your story, Donna...what a blessing to have your sweet little granddaughter and the message she brought. Your story of beginning to heal through your art is inspiring.

  5. I'm so moved by your blog post and it brought me to tears. Thank God for little Blessings, Art and Courage. You are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What an amazing woman you are, thank you for sharing your story and your art!

  7. Wow...just wow...god bless you.....and your little angel....!!!

  8. Boy that was tough. Love to all.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your incredible story with us, you are so strong and brave!

  10. Thanks for sharing your story, you are truly an inspiration!

  11. Thanks for sharing your story!! WOW!