top of page

Healing Through Creative Expression

By Carol Makela 

          Anger and grief walk together in my life experience. Somatic expression is a key to opening my heart and soul to pain and is my way to move through. Writing provides a linguistic outlet for remembering (and dismembering) some of the most difficult stages of my life, but it was physicality that allowed me to tap into the shadowy layers of the unconscious to offer a healing and ultimate divorce from my lived experience of abusive machismo. During the seven-year period of my involvement with a man I hastily married nearly three decades ago, I was in survival mode and fiercely protective of my young children as all my energies were engaged in making it through to the next day. My ex-husband's increasingly abusive behavior turned physical one evening when, after hours of arguing, he violently kicked me in the upper leg after I punched him in the stomach (gut-reaction) in an emotional rage. What followed in the coming days was darkly dreamlike. Police were summoned. I moved his belongings to the driveway and changed the locks. Separation and then divorce papers were filed. And at last, I was ‘free’.

     Seventeen years after the violence of that evening, the anger now subsided, I discovered that profound grief remained, swimming and bobbing below the surface. I chose to re-live this period of my life in a loosely choreographed and largely improvised dramatic piece, set upon a small stage and filmed by a close friend. The grief of driving myself through a snowstorm at six-o-clock in the morning to birth my daughter because my husband had been out drinking all night; grief of mothering my young children as infants and during their early years in silent despair; grief of not being able to celebrate the purchase of my first home and instead, tip-toeing around our new house after days of organizing and packing while simultaneously caring for a nine-month old and a two year old; grief of a nearby but functionally absent family who witnessed this all but were not emotionally mature or psychologically aware enough to offer me the support I needed but could not ask for at the time.

      During the weeks in which I planned the scenes of my dance-infused dramatic project I walked in the summer evenings, exploring this shadowy marriage, often in tears and shaking with rage and regret. In the nine short scenes I performed and filmed, I re-lived the encounter, the destruction, the inner flight, the outer fight, and my final separation and liberation. Living through an abusive relationship took a toll on my psychic well-being, and dramatizing the experience involved days and nights of tears, sorrow and anger. Through the process of artistic and somatic creation, I summoned up and wrestled that unconscious grief into consciousness. Having brought grief to the surface through reflection, writing, dramatic action and movement, I integrated those dark, shadowy parts of my psyche into a more whole sense of self.

© Carol Makela 2023

Carol's Bio: 

I am an educator, performing artist, and mother. I work with children ages 5 – 14 and their families in a homeschool program supported by the public school district, where I teach theatre, dance, and a medley of humanities-infused classes. I have been a single parent for nearly two decades and have the great honor of witnessing my now-grown children make their tentative ways out into the world. I recently completed a master's degree in Depth Psychology and Creativity. On dealing with grief I incorporate active imagination, walking meditation, stream-of-consciousness writing, poetry, and improvisational movement. From my experiences of grieving, I have learned the importance and necessity of looking deeply into painful emotional states, bringing them up to the surface, and creatively transforming them into the conscious self through the process of artmaking.

bottom of page