Grief has always been an inevitable part of life, but it has been particularly prevalent in the last two years for many of us. In times of grief, it is common to find an outlet, and for many people, that outlet is art. If you want to understand how much of an impact art can have on the grieving process, Andrew Garfield has a pretty deep perspective on it.
Andrew Garfield, an actor known for his roles in things like The amazing Spider-Man, recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to discuss his new film, Tap, Tap … BOOM !.
In the film, Garfield plays Jonathan Larson, a composer and playwright known for his work with musicals such as Rent. While the film is a biographical tale of Larson’s life, it also explores themes of aspiration, friendship and love that are expressed through music.
Garfield lost his mother in 2019 to cancer and told Colbert in his interview that playing Larson in the film helped him process her death.
“This is all the unspoken love, the sorrow that will stay with us, you know, until we pass. For we never get enough time with each other, right? Not even if someone lives until 60, 15, or 99. So I hope that this grief stays with me, for it is all the unspoken love I did not tell her. ”
This in itself is a pretty incredible way to look at grief. I can not help but think “but what is sorrow if not love persistent?” line from WandaVision because both offer such simple ways to turn typical views of grief upside down.
The real Jonathan Larson tragically died at an early age just before the opening of Rent. Garfield said the process of assuming a character who died so unexpectedly allowed him to process his grief at the same time.
“This movie has a bit to do with… this ticking clock that we all have. That we all know somewhere deep down that life is sacred, life is short, and we’d better just be here as much as possible, along with each other, hold on to each other … I got to sing Jonathon Larson’s unfinished song, while at the same time singing for my mother and her unfinished song …
“I am grateful to everyone who has brought me to this place so that I can honor the most beautiful person I have ever experienced in my life through my art and use it as a way to heal. Use it to sew up the wounds …
“Both John and my mother were artists, and they were warriors of art. They knew the power of art, and they knew the power of leaving the world in a slightly more beautiful state than when they found it.”
Garfield’s speech is one of those rare instances where a larger-than-life concept has been put into words and can be seen in action. Many of us naturally recognize the value that art has, but seeing it expressed in such an honest way really leaves an impact.
Understandably, his reflection got a lot of attention on the net. You can see it in its entirety in the video below.
There has been some research into the relationship between art and grief that supports Andrew Garfield’s message.
The International Arts + Mind Lab wrote in an article that involvement in creative activities can help us regulate grief.
Creative activities can help regulate highs and lows of grief by bringing emotions that are suppressed or difficult to express into the open air and making them more accessible for processing.
“Art can also help the bereaved to maintain their bond with the deceased and make sense of the loss. In fact, meaning-making is now considered a sixth stage of grief. Research shows that those who find meaning in loss have greater subjective well-being and even the function of the immune system than those who do not find meaning. “
For Garfield, it was through his portrayal of Jonathan Larson that he was able to find meaning in his mother’s death and also celebrate her life.
For others, it may be finding meaning through music, painting, drawing or writing. It can even come through simply engaging with a work of art you have a connection with. Either way, the importance of art in our lives simply cannot be overstated.
If you want to see why this achievement had such a huge impact on Andrew Garfield, you can see Tap, Tap … BOOM! on Netflix now.