Good Grief Cafe

Sally Swain original art painting

Here Am I
Swimming in a Teacup
Sally Swain © original art
purchased by a lovely member of Sydney Threshold Choir

Let me tell you about the Good Grief Café.

I rarely report on workshops or playshops in this here blog.

But I wonder –

Might you find it useful to read about bringing Art to your experience of Grief?

Good Grief Café is a one day workshop hosted by Sydney Threshold Choir.

(Link to this Brave, Big-Hearted Bunch of Women Here).

I was thrilled to co-facilitate along with the amazing Trish Watts and Beate Steller.

(Look for a bunch of groovy website links down the bottom of this page)

I was responsible for the Art thread of the day, weaving it in with other offerings.

Let’s take a glimpse at the Art thread:

Safe Space for the Holding of Grief

I led

a guided contemplation.

What does Safe Space mean to you?

Is there a nurturing or protective place you go in your imagination or the external world that can help you to be with grief?

It could be indoors, outdoors. It could be a leaf or a quality of light or your grandma or your belly.

flower sacred space

the Sacred Space
at Good Grief Cafe

Each person hung out in their Safe Space, exploring its colours, textures and sounds.

They then made art in response, while Trish drummed, hummed and sang.

My Golden Moment

I looked around the room. I saw forty people engaged with art-making, immersed in the highly personal, yet deeply universal act of listening to the forces of creation.

They were, each person, actively absorbed in responding to the call of tactile art materials combined with their own inner Creative Life Force.

They were each and every one bringing forth a process and artwork that had never previously been seen in the world.

I shed a tear. Maybe three. There was something piquantly sweet about this hush, this divine play, this Golden Moment that moved me and stirred an earthed satisfaction.

Wisdom of Creativity – Drawing forth Strength

I wanted to guide people to consider strengths, resources and self-care strategies they could tap into during grief or loss. 

I invited them to connect with a Wise Being. This could be a real or imaginary figure, a Kind Wise self, a spiritual source, a tree, an animal or an old friend. Or it might be their artwork from earlier in the day. They posed three questions to their Wise Being:


  1. What is a strength of mine that I can bring to the art of grieving?
  2. What is a self-caring practice or action I can bring to the art of grieving?
  3. What is your special message to help me through the art of grieving?

Again, I invited art in response. They used paper doilies, pipe cleaners, oil pastels, ribbons, magazine collage, textas, all kinds of stuff. People placed their Wise Being art piece in relation to their Safe Space.

grief waters

the Universal Bowl of Grief…
becoming the Waters of Hope
at Good Grief Cafe

These forty people blew my mind. I’m often delighted at how, given the same info and materials, our human art-hearts and hands come up with infinite original variations on how to use the base materials. It’s a form of alchemy for sure.

During the ritual guided by Beate, participants placed their artwork in the Sacred Space, around the Universal Bowl of Grief. They did this in silence while the choir sang. 

art grief sacred

Good Grief Cafe
artwork placed in the Sacred Space

Three principles threaded through the creative strands of the day:

  1. Honour the creator or artist
  2. Honour the creative process
  3. Honour the creation or artistic product

I felt that the closing ritual grounded and deepened these three levels of honouring.

Susie Nelson-Smith, one of the ‘Choir Mothers’, offered feedback:

grief art sacred waters

artwork placed around the Universal Bowl of Grief
becoming the Waters of Hope

‘The Sacred Space was filled with light. It was a glorious day and I loved it all so much.

Doing artwork added a dimension that was deep and moving.

The balance was perfect.

Thank you for a very memorable day where I personally experienced healing, connection and love.

So there’s my rare report. Let me know if you take away something of value.

with love, art and soul from Sally

PS Photo permissions were granted all round

PPS Further links here:

Susie Nelson-Smith (who took the photos appearing in this blog)

Beate Steller

Trish Watts

and finally, more Sally Swain Art of Grieving explorations here


11 thoughts on “Good Grief Cafe

  1. Sally – very interesting blog post and a good effort in making positive thoughts to overcome grief … I am on the other side of the world so I have to just read about this. I had a very good friend pass away this past Monday – she was like a second mother to me, and, though her death was not totally unexpected as she had COPD (advanced stages), and had been in the hospital the entire week before she passed away, she was scheduled to return home last Sunday and took a bad turn, so her sudden passing took her family and me by surprise.

    I am not an artist, but I did create a blog post tribute to her using a beautiful sunrise photo she had sent me … she loved sunrises and loved capturing them with her camera … so I guess her asthe photographer and me as the writer were artists of sorts … here is my blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Linda
      I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend. That is a huge, impactful event in your world. Wishing you well with the journey it takes you on. And what a beautiful gesture to create a blog post tribute to her incorporating her own photo. Of course you are an artist!
      warmly, Sally

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for saying that Sally … I have a feeling she is still watching over me. Marge and I have been very close since my mom passed away in 2010. She lived next door to me/us since 1992. I have no family members at all … so, after my mom died, Marge kind of adopted me into her family. I have some other photos that she took, many sunrises, and have used some in the past in my blog posts, and will save these as-yet-unused photos that she sent me when she was out and about and feeling better, in future blogs – maybe another sunrise photo on the one-year anniversary of her passing. She made an impact in the lives of both my mom and me and it was a crushing blow to lose her. Thank you for your kind thoughts Sally. It was not so very long ago that I commented on your blog post about your father.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Linda – sending hugs of cosy warmth. I can feel the wrench of your heart even via this blog technology. You are a good woman. I guess there will be a significant grieving process for a significant person in your life and I hope you are able to claim the space and nourishment for this to unfold, with much support and love around you.

          Liked by 1 person

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