Theme: “Making Connections: Dying, Death and Bereavement in the Global Community”
For ADEC’s 33rd Annual Conference and 9th International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, prescriptive artist Nancy Gershman introduced a case example of Prescriptive Photomontage, a playful method created for making higher level meaning out of grief and loss, designed to give individuals with complicated grief a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Made in consultation with a grieving client, the process augments traditional bereavement interventions as an adjunct to therapy and a post-therapy resource.
The process entails an interview and photo review, culminating in a brainstorming session in which the Preferred Story (Freedman & Combs, 1996) is defined. The story either mythologizes the legacy of the deceased or envisions a future in which the client’s continuing bond (Klass & Walter, 2001) with the deceased becomes a source of empowerment. The making of a Healing Dreamscape for Hope (a pseudonym), a 62-year old widow and bereaved mother with complicated grief, is described in this case example.
The product in Hope’s case was a fine art prescriptive photomontage or “Healing Dreamscape,” which envisioned a Preferred Legacy. The Healing Dreamscape method mined the dark patches of Hope’s history for positivity and joy. It also became an homage to the hard therapeutic work done by this griever prior to her experience with the prescriptive artist. Additionally, the visualization became a script of sorts which laid out – in visual terms – what Hope’s active work conceivably might look like.
Gershman believes that as prescriptive art matures into a discipline, more individuals with artistic talent, experience and/or interest in working within the mental health field will consider developing and emerging as prescriptive artists.