How art helped WAY member Erin to heal after her wife died

April 2024

WAY member Erin explains how art helped her to find an outlet for her grief after her wife died on New Year’s Eve…

After losing my wife, Emma, on New Year's Eve 2023, I felt lost and as though part of me had died with her. Who was I without my wife? What do I do with my time and what future path will I be walking?  

Widowhood for me at the beginning was like being plucked out of this world, placed in a foggy field with only one metre visibility and being told to make my way out. Alone. No map, with no visible markers and with a strong chance of going around in circles. If I did find a future path, in the fog, I had no clue if any I might encounter would be the right one. It was scary.

It is important for couples to have things in common but to also have things you do on your own. Emma and I liked to watch The Big Bang Theory on a loop. We loved gaming, nature, animals (especially cats) and true crime documentaries. Could I do these things now without her? Yes, of course, but I’d have to find a new way of enjoying these things solo.

“After Emma passed away, I was stuck for finding what made me happy to do alone and this is it – art.”

Before Emma passed away, I was making a clay model of Sadness from the film Inside Out. I started making the wig for the model out of blue yarn and it was half finished by the time Emma was admitted to hospital, where she peacefully passed away. A week later, still in the shock phase, I looked at the model, which I’d wrapped in cling film to make the base of the wig, and decided I’d finish it.

It felt good. I enjoyed something in the throes of grief and pain. Following this, I bought some polymer clay (Sadness was made out of air-dry clay and it was a pain!) and started experimenting. 

Following a low point, I went to my local crisis centre for help, where they also did arts and crafts. One evening, I went there with only a few clay colours – white, black and a large ball of orange. Wound tight with anger at the world, I decided to take these colours and make something that embodied my feelings – a scorpion.

I was very pleased with the result and realised the activity had quenched the rage I felt. The clay had absorbed the negativity and I’d made a model of a scorpion out of it. 

After this, I made other things:  A mushroom, a rockpool, an Adipose from Doctor Who, a ladybird, Pingu, a newt, the evil penguin from Wallace and Gromit, a handbag, bowl of ramen, a picnic, a sofa, burger and fries, a fruit bowl, a stack of books, a dalek, a fruit pie, a tortoise, a snowman and a full English breakfast!

It was a challenge to make these items and it was great fun. I’m currently making Anger from Inside Out and made another Sadness model, this time entirely from polymer clay.

I’d love to see what future clay modelling brings me and would like to start painting and embellishing sculptures going forward.”

Erin is a part of WAY’s subgroup for members who enjoy art. WAY members can create new groups and join any that they feel are relevant to them. Currently there are more than 100 groups to choose from – ranging from fans of Formula 1 to craft and DIY.