Art Healing Tragedy; Reflections from NYC

I love art for the way it helps heals us after tragedy. When the sheer facts are overwhelming, creative avenues may open up to keep us from despair.

Ten years ago when I was on the bus in Manhattan on my way to work, the unthinkable happened here. And in the aftermath, I was among those rushing away from the city we loved, terrified. When I got home after walking for hours, I made a hasty line drawing of angry eagles taking flight from the tops of high rise buildings and descending on the world far away, with people below crying and looking up to the sky – after I was done I realized it looked something like La Guernica, and that I thought a war was coming and I was afraid of that, and ashamed of it coming from us here.

Not long after, my daughters put on a play for me at home that they enacted based on a comic that appeared in a popular news journal. They held up a drawing of a map and a news headline, and using a staff to point from the Q in the word Iraq, to the Q in the word, Al Qaeda, they acted out a fictional news broadcast. It explained the reason the US was going to war, in Iraq. It was the Q’s that the two words had in common. The girls were young, 8 and 11 at the time, and it seemed that creating the short play and acting it out helped them.

In both scenarios, the drawing and acting out the play, art allowed us a path to communicate with each other about the fear and the confusion. Did the tragedy make sense afterwards? Not much, but at least we got to say that to each other. Art helped us to communicate and that alone is a step toward healing.

Has creativity helped you overcome tragedy, through art, music or writing?

Please leave a comment to share your experiences and views with readers. I’ll look forward to hearing from you here.

Related links: you may also be interested in Short Stories “Death and the Dream” available at and book retailers world wide, as print and ebook editions.

10 responses to “Art Healing Tragedy; Reflections from NYC”

  1. For me my creativity is a release, and it also helps me maintain my sanity. Not because I write to make sense of anything. The act of creating simply evens me out. And it makes me happy.
    It’s great that your daughters felt/feel so free to express in front of you, Jennifer. That acceptance is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child.


  2. It’s not my creativity, but the creativity of Peter Gabriel – his music, his lyrics – which helped me to overcome the darkest moments in my life (and still to handle the scars these moments left on my soul).

    But after watching the interview with this strong woman LyzbethGlickBest I think the greatest creativity lies in the ability of heart and soul to find strength in times in which strength isn’t easy to find.



  3. Wayne, thank you for sharing your music and this story – that particular piece does it to me too every time, for the connection to mother in my memory. Bach is amazing. I had learned that piece, the prelude in C major, on piano for my Duke music audition, when studying with Hummel, but the sound just reminds me of loving my mom. –Jennifer


  4. Good morning Jennifer:
    I am on a self-imposed twitter time limit due to preparation of several projects (complete Mozart Piano Sonatas next week, preparing ‘Music of Thanksgiving’ TV special, and the usual lapsed service in the machinery of life (air conditioner, kitchen faucet) but your post was a must see now – so this to remind me I’ll be back with the stories listeners have bestowed on me about the healing they have received at my concerts – one in particular – a medical doctor in Montana whose young son’s life had left his body while in the emergency room of a hospital while his father was the only physician on duty – the Doctor plunged into the deepest depression and a year later he came to my concert at the University and confided in me afterwards that as he listened to the Bach C Major Prelude it was the first moment of release from his pain he had felt … it was the beginnng of the light returning to his heart…That touched me so deeply that I never doubted of my ‘mission’ ever for a moment again…
    Revealing the unconditional love of God through music. That’s my job.
    You have given me a great gift with this post.
    Thank you.


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