Good Grief: Finding joy through mandalas

July 13, 2019

Good Grief: Finding joy through mandalas

Dannie Engwert’s first mandala was an accident. After losing her mother, brother, and husband within four years, she’d become very familiar with grief. All alone, sitting at her kitchen table, she was playing with the silverware, moving around the forks, spoons, and knives. “The shine of the object caught my eye. What a surprise to see such a sparkle in everyday stuff.”

With a smile and a quick snapshot of that accidental mandala, Dannie felt a lift in her step. She kept going, day after day, making a new mandala out of everyday objects. Fruit, rubber bands, scissors, clothespins and so on until there were 75 unique mandalas. 

Dannie Engwert's Book, Good Grief, which is available for purchase at The Drawing RoomDannie took a photo of each one and that collection of little installations became her book, Good Grief.

“It seems to me in times of loss each one of us must do our own thing,” Dannie writes in her book. “We must do it our way! Some people hide. Some people fall apart. Some people tighten up and others get busy busy busy...We may not match anyone else’s way. Another’s way may start us up out of our grief.”

Dannie found her way through mandalas, geometric symbols that represent the universe. The art of creating them, admiring them, capturing them, and sharing them. She says they gave her the freedom to play, allowed her to smile more, and discovered that “life after all that death was returning to normal.” 

And that’s what she helps others do now, work through loss and grief by taking a little time to be creative. How do creativity and play help? Dannie says that when dealing with loss, the body first goes into shock. When the shock wears off, you’re often left feeling lost. Giving your mind and body the chance to play starts to introduce balance back into your life.  

Mandala Can Image from Dannie Engwert's Good GriefIn her workshops, Dannie gathers small groups of people together to make their own mandalas out of everyday objects. Everyone takes a little bag of commonplace items and gets five minutes to create their own installation and have it photographed. Then it’s time to wipe away the mandala and try the next bag, and the next. At the end, participants put together a mini ‘zine of their photos. It’s a reminder of the creativity at play as well as the balance, beauty, and healing properties of mandalas. 

Dannie is hosting her workshop “Good Grief: Finding Joy Through Mandalas” at The Drawing Room on July 24th from 4 - 6 p.m. Hear her story, learn a brief history of mandalas and their role in healing, then play with objects to create your own mandalas. No artistic skill is required. The goal is to bring a smile to your face and potentially shift some sadness into a feeling of hope. 

Workshop tickets cost $50 and can be purchased online. 

About Dannie Engwert

Author and artist Dannie Engwert is a constant learner, with a degree in psychology and certificates in education and thanatology (the study of grief). She is a fiber artist, greeting card creator, artist facilitator, and the author of Good Grief, a photo book of mandalas made from household items. She shares her experiences of living with loss and grief in workshops around the country. Dannie lives on the south coast of Massachusetts and invites you to play, create, and find joy in your way.