“There was a time when I didn’t have the words to describe my grief even privately. In those early days the only tool I had for self expression was my camera. On the days when I felt really bad I would prop my camera up on a stack of books and take Self-Portraits, feverishly running back and forth between the shutter button and a pose, over and over again until I felt better. I truly don’t like being photographed, but it felt so satisfying to get my feelings out into the world without having to talk, or describe, or explain. You want to know how I’m feeling? Look, this is how I’m feeling.”
Yesterday was National Selfie Day and, though selfies often get a bad rap, selfies open a space for self-expression when the words escape us or when the emotions are too dark or terrifying. In her essay “The Self-Portrait as Self-Therapy” Cristina Nunez says, “the expression of difficult emotions in the self-portrait is particularly therapeutic. Rage and despair often cannot be externalized, so we become accustomed to repressing them . . . by objectifying our ‘dark side’ in a photograph, we separate ourselves from what is painful and open ourselves up for catharsis and renewal.” She goes on to equate self-portraits to a punching bag, explaining something similar to what Eleanor describes above: “I take enraged or desperate self-portraits to release the tension and I come out calm and satisfied”.
All this to say, selfies are not just a narcissistic product of an era where many of us feel compelled to share our lives online. Self-expression changes over time. Music changes, art changes, writing changes. These changes come with criticism, with skepticism and pessimism. But just as there is public and private value in the self-portrait, the selfie offers us the same (and new) opportunities for communication, expression, and growth.
So in honor of National Selfie Day, take some time to consider the benefit of the selfie. Creating a timeline of our grief – If you take selfies over time, like self-portraits, you can see where you were at a moment in time. The allow us to see our own growth and healing. They can inspire other art; by capturing yourself in a specific moment, experiencing a certain emotion, you may find it sparks wanting to further develop and explore that feeling through other creative outlets. They allow you to communicate something to others without words. For more thoughts on grief selfies, visit our extended post on this topic over at What’s Your Grief.
by Lin Deahl-Coy
This was taken the first anniversary of his death, July 22 2015. The pain in my eyes is palpable. He was my soulmate and best friend. He showed me a love i thought only existed in the movies. We were only together a short time but to us it was an eternity. In a room full of people it was always just me and henry. We had our own little world. We said we loved each other so much that the words to express it weren’t invented yet. Our souls and hearts are joined forever. I miss him immensely. My heart will never be whole again. My soul is already gone. It’s with Henry. Just waiting for my time so I can join my beloved on the other side.
by Jean Daquila