MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. - Losing a family member, a loved one, or a close friend can be more than some people know how to handle. That's where places like The Healing Place in Muscle Shoals come in. It’s a center for grieving children and families.
Upstairs, Athens artist Lynn Weatherford and her daughter Gracey mix paints so they can get to work. “I think I'm going to do grays and purple,” Gracey says. They’re working on a mural in the new teen loft at the center. Their work covers an entire wall. “All of these are describing grief in different forms because we all grieve differently and some of them are just fun ones,” Lynn said. “But most of them have s story behind them.”
It’s the finishing touch giving teenagers their own space to sit and talk. But they’ll also be encouraged to pick up a paint brush and fill the blank canvases on the wall. “We left those for them to be able to express their grief or if they want to do a happy one, a sad one, however they want to do it,” Lynn said.
But the mural is helping the artists deal with their own losses. “We lost my son, her brother and then we lost my father and my mother all within a short span,” Lynn told me. Many of the paintings came from handling their own grief. Just like the moon Gracey painted, she was going through phases. “That definitely happened to me,” She said. “I would be regular Gracey and then the next month, it just went downhill.”
The paintings have helped mother and daughter better understand each other. Lynn looks at one painting of a girl with a balloon string wrapped around her explaining, “The balloon is supposed to be grief and it’s got you all wrapped up. Sometimes, you can’t speak the words and that’s very much true with what was going on with her at that time.”
Everyone grieves differently and it’s okay to be different. “That's something I want this wall to say,” Lynn said. “As long as you come out on the other end and you know, don't stay in that sorrow.”
Making the 45 minute drive from Athens, painting and listening to music opened new lines of communication between Gracey and her mom. “Talking back to each other and telling each other why we painted something and how we felt about it,” Gracey said. “We've always been close but it did definitely bring us the next level of our relationship.”
And it’s given them each a better understanding of how they were dealing with losing their family members. “This was a great thing for us to work on together,” Lynn said. Gracey added, “It was fun to be able to do it with my mother.” Lynn summed it all up saying, “Painting and the love of art is my escape.”
The Healing Place serves more than 500 kids a year in Franklin, Lauderdale and Colbert counties. The non-profit will host its annual charity golf tournament May 22nd at Turtle Point Country Club in Killen. Florence native and PGA professional Stewart Cink will host the event. If you’re interested in playing in the tournament or donating to The Healing Place, click on the link above.