A Survivor’s Journey to Healing Through Art

A Survivor’s Journey to Healing Through Art

Solo Mom VersAnnette Blackman overcame abuse—and helps others do the same

Creativity has always been my thing. Since childhood, I’ve been drawn to color, crafts, words, and finding beauty in nature as the backdrop of my everyday existence. What I wasn’t fully aware of was the tremendous capacity art had to provide healing.

Several years ago, I found myself in an abusive relationship. It started out full of romance and idealistic pleasures, and I was convinced I’d found my soulmate. But the quick downward spiral of this relationship led me to a place of utter and complete brokenness. I contacted a program called WINGS, whose mission is to provide transitional housing and resources for women escaping domestic violence. During my time in the program, I received counseling, a safe place for me and my children to live, and access to various resources, from child care to career services.

Though all the resources the program offered helped me get back on my feet and achieve stability, what helped me to access the deeper impact of emotional trauma was art. I would sit in my room for hours and journal, write poetry, collage, and even paint. This work helped me to express the guilt, shame, and hurt that, at the time, I couldn’t quite share with anyone—not even my counselor. It also helped me to create colorful, meaningful manifestations of the new life I was envisioning. I noticed after a while that every time I engaged in a creative endeavor, I felt good. I felt better about myself. It was so therapeutic and healing, and it was for me. So often as single moms, we find it hard to give ourselves permission to do simple things for ourselves. Little things that give us a moment of calm, that steal us away from the never-ending to-do lists or the emotional roller coasters that exhaust us.

As I found a way to reconnect with the creative, spirited woman inside me, I started to share what I was doing with other residents. I’d ask if anyone else wrote poetry or had interest in the arts. Soon after, we all started sharing poetry and making vision boards during our group house meetings. This idea seemed to get everybody jazzed, and the mission of Heal! Empower! Motivate!—HEM—was born. It all happened right there in a transitional housing program full of women who’d forgotten how to breathe and just be.

Today I carry on HEM’s mission by visiting women in domestic violence shelters. I arrive with poetry, journals, art supplies, chocolate, and a spirit of encouragement. It doesn’t take long for our sessions to become full-blown support circles, where we read and discuss poems that resonate with us, such as “The Journey” by Mary Oliver. We speak openly and honestly about our struggles, about the shame and burden that come with being survivors, and our worries and fears about whether or not we have it in us to start over and rebuild our lives.

I am honored and simply amazed at the outcome of this endeavor. As a survivor, I know how important the healing process is to a woman’s journey toward wholeness. I have learned firsthand just how much art allows us to express and release emotions we cannot name. Most of all, I’ve learned that a bit of resilience, vision, and creativity go a long way.

HEM was launched in 2013 and has been officially incorporated. We’ve had several fundraisers and continue to receive support in the community. We are in the process of becoming a registered nonprofit organization, and our ultimate vision is to bring the healing and rewards of this program everywhere.

Check out Blackman’s powerful poem “Why We Stay.”

Image via Shutterstock.com

Former Solo Mom VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia, ESME’s Resource Guide for Domestic Violence, is a painter, published poet, speaker, and facilitator. Through her business, Soul Revival Healing Arts, she offers original paintings and products, and teaches workshops. Her first poetry collection, Butterfly Spirit, was published in 2015. VersAnnette is passionate about empowering women, eating great food, and traveling the world. She and her family currently reside near Chicago.

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