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The Art of Healing after Child-Loss – curious arts

Artist and Faculty of Arts alumna Alexis Marie Chute shares her story and offers advice for bereaved moms on Mother’s Day

For moms who have experienced the loss of a child, Mother’s Day can be a long and difficult 24 hours.

It’s virtually impossible to escape the holiday hoopla and something as simple as a sign for a Mother’s Day discount can serve as a trigger for a bereaved mom.

Artist, photographer and writer Alexis Marie Chute (’07 BFA) knows better than most just how painful Mother’s Day can be.

Alexis Marie Chute, her husband Aaron and their son Zachary.

Alexis Marie Chute, her husband Aaron and their son Zachary. Photo supplied.

In 2010, her second baby Zachary died from a rare disorder just minutes after his birth. Though his life was short, Alexis says his impact is lasting and profound.

“Zachary’s birth and death on the same day became my A.D and B.C,” said Alexis. “What followed is what I like to call, in capital letters, my YEAR OF DISTRACTION.”

Unable to deal with her loss, Alexis fell into a kind of depression. Racked with grief, she focused entirely on commercial photographic work, abandoning her creative projects altogether.

“I was so raw and this crazy mess of grief; I didn’t paint, I didn’t write. I tried not to address my emotions in any way,” she said.

It wasn’t until she became pregnant with her third child, in 2011, that Alexis realized she needed to come to terms with Zachary’s death.

She started an art project she dubbed The Quiet Re-Build – a collection of paintings, photographs and wood sculptures – and through the creative work, she says she began to heal.

“Pouring my emotions into the artwork was incredibly cathartic. I found my heart and my mind – every part of the grieving mother that I had suppressed – was able to come out in a reflective way,” she said.

Since then, Alexis has harnessed the power of creative expression to ease her grief and support other bereaved parents.

Alexis Marie Chute

Alexis Marie Chute’s website Wanted, Chosen, Planned.

She created the website Wanted, Chosen, Planned where she connects parents who have lost a child and posts ideas for healing art and writing projects. It’s become a valuable resource and a safe space for parents to share their stories and photos.

On this Mother’s Day, Alexis reminds us ALL mothers are created equal – and that even after the loss of a child – all mothers deserve to be celebrated.

“Mother’s day is extremely hard for mothers who have lost a child or baby – especially if they don’t have any other children,” she said. “The question that comes up is ‘Am I still a mother?’.”

The answer will be different for everyone, but Alexis believes motherhood is a “state of the heart, not a numerical equation.”

“In my opinion, if you created life, nurtured it, brought it into the world – you’re a mom,” she said.

 Here are some of Alexis’s tips for honouring a bereaved mom on Mother’s Day:

  1. Acknowledge her as a mother, whether she has surviving children or not.
  2. Celebrate the child/baby she lost by mentioning him/her by name.
  3. Ask her about the child/baby she lost and let her share her thoughts and feelings.
  4. Suggest a healing art project and offer to make it with her, like a photo scrapbook or collage.
  5. Give her the gift of time, in any capacity.

To read more about Alexis’ personal baby-loss experience and her journey to acceptance, visit her website here.

Check out her project Unfulfilled Precognition – a collection of Lomographs taken before and after Zachary’s birth and death.

For a list of resources for bereaved parents, follow this link

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