Ann Writes About Her Graphic Coaching Clinic Experience

This article is based on the great time connecting with Christina Merkley at her Graphic Coaching Clinic a couple of weeks ago. I traveled to Victoria, BC for the workshop and a chance to meet Christina in person.

Graphic coaching and recording is an emerging field that I have found fascinating for quite some time. Perhaps it is the artist “wanna be” in me, but I knew I had to learn the icons and colors that go into graphic recording. Christina is a pioneer in the field and did an excellent job of leading the group through the process. Within minutes we were at the ‘wall’, drawing and capturing key points of presentations in graphic form. Here’s a picture of my first graphic ever-a city scene, and one of Christina and her more polished work!

Learning this new skill and following through with my daily practice has me a little out of my comfort zone. And being out of that zone is pretty similar to what grief does to you. Read on to see what I mean.

As I entered the conference room I couldn’t help but notice the huge and colorful charts taped to every available inch of wall space. Portable ‘walls’ were created and available for our graphic recording practice; the room was outfitted with all the tools necessary to a graphic recorder.

Walking up to the wall was a walk of fear. It took some gentle reminders from Christina to tackle the assigned tasks with markers in hand. A little like grief, it seemed to me, as I remembered those first days after a loss when I came face-to-face with a wall of emotion that I hadn’t yet experienced. What’s your “wall of fear” when it comes to coping with your loss? Most times facing it gets you through to the other side a little bit quicker than ignoring it does.

“Your body knows”, said Christina as she led us through a warm up exercise that showed us where our bodies wanted to place lines on the wall’s paper. Together we moved side to side and stepped into the wall’s pull, making our first mark. And like graphic recording, our bodies tell us what we need in grief. Perhaps it’s more rest or a brisk walk, our bodies spring into protection mode after the shock of loss. It’s important we honor those nudges and take care of ourselves through the days of grieving. What can you do to take better care of your physical self?

Draw bigger! It’s all in our perception. Standing at the wall found me focused on the space immediately in my line of vision, which meant I was totally ignoring the expanse of paper at my disposal. “Draw bigger!”, Christina would remind me. It was only when I stepped back from the wall that I could see (literally) the bigger picture. When we are in the midst of grief we are focused totally on the loss in front of us and can’t quite see that, with time, we’ll move through it and life will pick up its pace once again.

Add some color. Once we had our graphics on the wall, it was time to shade them with colorful pastels. Doing so brought a depth to the work that really made it pop and stand out. Grief is associated with black and gray tones, but what if we searched for the rich hues of purple, burgundy and gold? You’ll find more color in focusing on your memories of happy times with your loved one rather than on those of your pain in the loss.

Partner up. Christina had us find a partner and practice recording one another’s current state of satisfaction with several areas of life. I recorded my partner’s thoughts first, attempting to find the balance between listening and drawing. When we were finished and reviewing each area, my partner said “I haven’t told anybody this before. Thank you for hearing me.” Grief produces a need for companionship and support. And there is value in sharing with a stranger. Isn’t it time you partnered up for a conversation with a grief recovery specialist? There’s no need to go it alone.

The next step. At the end of our three-day training Christina asked us to declare our next steps to incorporating graphic recording into our work. I promised to practice drawing 30 minutes a day. Notice that didn’t translate into a commitment to create a life-sized chart; just a small step will do.

How about you? What’s your next small step toward grief recovery? It might be starting a journal or calling about a coaching group. Whatever it is, commit now and take action.

It’s true that facing the wall isn’t always comfortable, but doing so can produce increased skill-building, feelings of accomplishment and anticipation for what’s to come. Just like moving through grief can.

© 2009 Ann Leach

Want to use this article in your E-zine or on your web site? You can, as long as you include the following blurb with it: Life Preservers’ director, Ann Leach, publishes In the Flow, a bi-monthly publication that supports, nudges and informs both family and professional caregivers. If you’d like FREE tips on supporting yourself and others as they ride the waves of change that grief brings, visit

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