Saying goodbye with hot glue, scissors
When in grief, make stuff.
The connection between grief and creativity didn’t come to me naturally.
I’d been dealing with loss and death for many years before I finally signed up for grief counseling after my dad died, and I’m so glad I did. (Shout out to Hospice Austin for the array of support services they offer.)
Working with the therapist helped me get a clearer sense of what grief means to me and how I want to work with it, and one of the best lessons I learned during those sessions was that when I’m dealing with loss, I better start collaging.
This week, I left a job I’ve had for a long time.
A job I’ve loved.
A job that had become a big part of my identity.
A job that changed my life.
I started grieving it months before I was ready to tell anyone I was leaving.
I’m a tad on the sentimental side, so each time I was in the office this spring, I was making mental notes about the little details I knew I’d miss. I went to the press room any time I could to stand in the shadow of these giant machines that were once the heartbeat of the city. I even filmed videos walking around the empty newsroom.
“Grief work,” I whispered to myself, naming the elephant in the eerily quiet office.
My last week at the newspaper was filled with hurried administrative tasks, exit surveys and farewell emails. I was writing on deadline up until my final day (Tuesday), but I made time over the weekend for a project I knew was related to my grief over leaving the Statesman.
Last year, my colleagues and I organized a union. The Austin NewsGuild is the best thing to happen to the Statesman in a decade. Not everyone would agree, but the unionizing process introduced me to longtime colleagues I’d never even said hello to. A workplace that has that kind of siloed management isn’t going to thrive for long, and even though not everybody supported the union, we needed to make a change that would help the newsroom in the long run.
Change always involves loss, and sometimes it’s so scary to think about losing something, we avoid change at all costs.
Not this time.
The media industry has faced so many hurdles during my journalism career, which started back in 1998 at the Aurora Advertiser, and it was an honor to be part of this sweeping movement to organize newsrooms across the country.
We spent a year on Zoom calls leading up to our election in February, which we won handily. Part of our marketing efforts included T-shirts, pins and these posters.
We had extras, so over the weekend, I started cutting them up to make memento magnets for my co-workers.
Back when I was on the copy desk (2006-2008), we had this amazing co-worker who later went onto the New York Times. Amy Zerba was ahead of her time at the Statesman, pushing for diversity and equity and anti-patriarchal management, all of the things we pushed for in the Guild more than a decade later.
When she moved on to her next job, she left magnets she made on our desks. Mine said, “Add voices.” It was a reminder to showcase writers, sources and subjects who don’t share my perspective. (I kept that magnet for years; I probably still have it somewhere, but it’s not appearing in time for me to write this post.)
Amy’s thoughtful parting gift meant so much to me at the time and in the years that followed. I wanted to give something similar to my co-workers, but this time, I knew the act of cutting up the posters, painting little wooden circles, hot glueing the magnets on the back would be something to ground me during an intense time of transition.
Cutting up the words “Austin NewsGuild” and “vital news provider” and “secure future news” and piecing them back together in my own way reminded me of the collages I made during those grief counseling sessions after my dad died.
Using my hands, my eyes, my brain in this artistic way — with the intention to create a safe space for any emotions that come up — opened my soul in ways I never could have expected, and now this kind of exercise feels like something I can turn to any time I’m grieving.
Call it a death collage. Call it art therapy. Call it a goodbye present.
It’s all part of what I now see as a grief ritual that can serve me any time I’m in the midst of losing something I have loved dearly.
I hope my colleagues enjoy getting these magnets and make their own meaning from them, but I can see that the act of creating them was the real gift.
Thank you all for the support this week! I’ve had so many emails after my final column appeared in today’s newspaper. It’s been an emotional week, and I’m glad it’s finally here. The only way out is through, right?
Today is my first day as an independent creator!
This transition has been many months (years?) in the works, and thanks to your paid subscriptions, I’m on an unexpected adventure (My favorite kind!) that is already bringing so many surprises.
A big part of that is Don’t Fear the Death Card, my tarot business that includes one-on-one readings, tarot team building AND my first virtual class, which starts today! If you are interested in learning Tarot 101 with me, a second class starts on June 26, and you can sign up here.
Look for new newsletters from me at least once a week, hopefully more, as I find my new post-Statesman rhythm. And thanks again for being a paid subscriber! Each month, 10 percent of proceeds go toward a cause that’s meaningful to me, and I’ll announce the June recipient soon.
Sending my best until next time,