How A Portrait Can Comfort A Grieving Heart

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One of my favorite things to do here at Paint Your Life is to watch the emotional reactions to the hand-painted portraits you give your loved ones.

Every day I watch the stories unfold. I see portrait after portrait revealed, each with a reaction so raw and real it pierces my heart. I feel a kindred spirit and am eager to share your bittersweet moments. The reactions are unique and can tell the story without a word uttered. You cry, look in disbelief, and sometimes you get as quiet as you can because if you listen close, you can hear something calling out to you. I watch your hand reach out and press aching fingers to a face jumping out at me, and I can see the words floating across my mind.

I mute the video so I can hear it.

See me! I am standing right here next to you. Can’t you feel me?

I rise from my chair and walk to the portrait I hung across from my desk. My sister’s smiling face looks back at me, willing me to give in.

Vibrant, that’s the word.

She looks vibrant.

Lost in my thoughts, I am transported to the moment this picture was taken, and I remember everything in ways that are too complex for me to fully understand but fall on me with a clarity that can only be her gift to me.

Grief is not unhappiness. Grief is remembrance.

Remembering my sister is the power of life, the acknowledgment of hers, and the acceptance of mine. Talking about her is honoring her, and seeing her every day in the vibrancy she was given with an artist’s gentle touch is the joyous grief of a loss known to many.

Shaken out of my wandering thoughts, I find myself still staring at the painting, wondering at my growing urge to reach out and stroke her face just like you did. Will my fingers meet the canvas in disappointment? Will the oil bend to my touch and bring her back to me?

Some dust has settled on the frame. I flick it off and let my fingers graze her painted hands. It’s just a portrait. It feels like oil on canvas, but a layer beneath the surface reaches out for a moment. It is enough to curve my lips and relax my eyes as I sit down and continue to watch the Paint Your Life stories flit across my screen.

I get it. You are not trying to bring them back to life; you are reminding yourself how to live on with their memory, drawing strength from the image you see, and making the comfort tangible.

This is a portrait, but it was powered by love and inspired by memories, so it is so much more.

PaintYourLife oil painting depicting the author’s sister, Hudis.


Brue Goldstein is a writer and content manager at Paint Your Life. She enjoys art, music, prose poetry, and writing about her life experiences.