At some point in our lives we are all going to lose someone we love, and be faced with grief.
It’s not something you can necessarily work out or try to understand – grief is a process you have to go through, to remember the loved one and to somehow find a way to live on with the hole that is left behind. Somehow we have to move on, but still we keep a space for them within ourselves.
I recently lost my pet and closest companion, Benji, a mouse I found as a baby and raised by hand. He lived until the very old age of 3 years and 4 months, knowing only my close family and friends, and spending most of the day sleeping in my clothes and crawling up to my neckline for cuddles.
I regret not having been present at the moment of his death, to comfort him and to say goodbye. I returned home the day after to learn the news from my family who had lovingly cared for him in his last few days.
When the time came to bury Benji, I dug a hole in the back garden inside which I laid him gently.
I saw his body, surrounded by roots, and I was very taken aback. It was no longer Benji. His body was now an empty shell, returning to the ground and giving life to other beings. Death is a natural process, which precedes more life.
Despite the sadness, there is something very beautiful about it.
I can’t really describe how it felt to lose Benji. I’m not sure that hole will every go away. But I am so grateful for all the things he taught me. I had never experienced such a strong bond with an animal.
The impact of the loss got me working on a new puppetry performance, which is, as this blog post is titled, on the theme of grief and death as a natural process.
For those of you who are less familiar with my work, I don’t consider my work to be ‘theatre’ in the traditional sense. I create visual imagery, which is animated on stage. As I am a puppeteer, this very often involves puppets, but I also aim to work in a highly visual aesthetic style, like a film, or installation, or a series of paintings or illustrations, with the added dimension of time and space on stage and with a live audience. I seem to often pick themes relating to mental health, having previously worked on the subjects of depression and dissociative identity disorder, with the aim of raising awareness of the experiences people with these issues might have. I work very little with text, as although it is a very effective means of communication, I believe images have a way of reaching us in far deeper and primal places within our beings, whilst text can keep us in our heads. Through feeling and sensation there are so many ways to experience the world.
With all this said, I wish to make a performance inspired by my recent loss and by my experiences of grief and to share it with all those who have also lost someone close.
I will post regularly on the progress of this performance, to share with you my process of work, and any research that might also inspire you.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you wish to discuss anything or to share your own experiences.