Since losing her husband Eddie to cancer in 2007, Adriana Marchione has relied on the arts to heal and renew her life. The San Francisco-based Expressive Arts Therapist is currently working on “When The Fall Comes,” a performance project that explores grief, dreaming about dead loved ones, and the variety of ways healing after loss can take shape.
Where did you meet your late husband and how would you describe the relationship you shared?
My husband Eddie and I met through a community that included sober members. We had known each other for several years before we started dating. Eddie was 20 years older than I was and I always thought he was kind and handsome, yet did not consider him as someone I would date because of our age difference. I was in a stage of life where I was visioning the relationship I wanted to have and I realized that Eddie fit the ideal I had if he had been younger. This opened up the idea for me to ask him out, and after our first few dates we fell in love quickly and started a life together. Our relationship was full of passion and adventure, yet also involved a lot of responsibility because he had two young kids, and we both worked hard on our careers to make a comfortable living in San Francisco. We lived in a house by a park on the top of a big hill, and often had parties and celebrations there together. We had a very creative life together as he was a musician and I was an artist and arts/movement therapist. We also learned to dance tango together. Our relationship was very deep, and spiritual in many ways. And, it also challenging at times because of our age difference and different needs as the years went by. We were together for twelve years and it will always be one of the most significant and special relationships of my life.
What was it like to lose Eddie after a long battle with lung cancer?
Eddie was sick for two years and for much of that time we thought he would survive the cancer. In the last few months of his life the cancer took hold very intensely and things happened very fast. The doctors even said he has several more months to live and then he died within days. Eddie died at home in a very lucid state, and there were many people there to help us through the dying process including hospice workers, his children and our dear friends. He sang a death song hours before he died, which was both very sad and heart opening. At first, I felt an incredible relief when he died because he was no longer suffering and I was extremely exhausted. I also felt a sense of peace for many days after he passed and very taken care of by friends and family. But overall I was so disoriented and fragile. It was hard to function normally for weeks afterwards and I had to take everything very slow. I felt like I was in an alternative universe after the initial shock of his death. And, then it was a long time of rebuilding my energy and organizing my life and my emotions.
What is your overriding memory of the initial period of grief?
A sense of emptiness, and a feeling that I was in a fog. Yet, there were also times when I was very present and clear, and I felt taken care and safe. Life felt simple and stripped down to what was most essential after such loss.
How has your grief changed with time?
It has softened over time and I feel that I am able to be more of a witness to the grief process and the circumstances of the loss. I also lost my father a year after Eddie so I had to negotiate two big losses at one time. I realized I needed to grieve them separately and find ways to do this consciously over the years. I do find that the pain of the loss of Eddie still can affect me in unexpected moments and places. Recently it was the tenth anniversary of our wedding, which was held near the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. I was surprised that I was caught with some depression, many strong memories and much sadness in response to it. Yet, I have found that I can let in more of the good memories over time without feeling so much pain. In the first year after Eddie’s death there were times when it was hard to remember certain things about him, or I would focus on negative experiences around the relationship and the illness leading up to his death. I find that the loss is more integrated into my life experience now and has more neutrality rather than being a tragedy.
You work as an Expressive Arts Therapist. How have the arts personally helped you to heal?
The arts have helped heal initially when I stopped drinking alcohol in 1993, and then have continued to be an important tool for my recovery process throughout the last twenty years, and have very much guided me during my grieving process. I find that the arts can hold all of my experiences, my pain and my vision as I have renewed my life. I have used dance, poetry, visual art and performance to illuminate my inner life, to diffuse intense emotions and to help me ‘imagine’ what is possible as I have healed from loss. They have also helped me to find a voice for my experience. Telling my story about loss has been very freeing. The arts help me to organize my emotions and my memories in a very meaningful way and have allowed me to reach others who have also experienced significant loss.
Tell us about When The Fall Comes and the short film you are working on.
‘When the Fall Comes’ is a performance project that chronicles the loss of a spouse and the dreams that guide the path of the one left behind. Using dance, poetry and spoken word this project shares reflections about grief, dreaming about dead loved ones, and the variety of ways healing after loss can take shape. ‘When the Fall Comes’ was originally performed to an intimate audience at Noh Space Theater in San Francisco in January of 2013 as a personal healing ritual. Based on this experience, it has been made clear to me that a broader audience could benefit from witnessing the performance. Therefore, I will be performing it again over a weekend at Noh Space Theater in San Francisco on October 11, 12, and 13 of 2013, as well as create a short film that documents this process of using the arts as a tool for supporting the grief process.
The hope for this project is to provide a venue for further reflection and dialogue for people who have suffered from the loss of a significant other or loved one. We live in a culture where there are so few opportunities to honor loss and to explore the emotional and spiritual disorientation that occurs from grief. This project aims to demonstrate that the arts can provide an opportunity to allow inexpressible feelings and experiences to be seen and heard, as well as provide a venue to come together around the topic of loss.
How can Our New Lives’ followers support your projects?
They can email me to be on my mailing list at adriana [at] creativesourcesf [dot] com and/or join my Facebook page. I am also seeking donations to help me fund the project which can be done by contacting me directly or going to my website.