The MESSAGE WALL
A Creative Arts Project For Girls Who Have Lost Their Mother
The purpose of the MESSAGE WALL is to provide young girls throughout the world who have lost their mother with the opportunity to be part of a group art project designed to help them express feelings about their loss and join with other girls throughout the world to create a beautiful and important art piece.
THE MESSAGE WALL is a program being offered by the Observant Artists Community Circle, a not-for-profit 501( c ) (3) organization that utilizes the talents of community artists to address pressing social issues. There are no fees involved in participating in this program and all the guidebook and instructions are downloadable from this sight. The program should take about 15-20minutes working with an individual child and 30 minutes working with a group. The only supplies needed are paper and colored pencils.
Although this Message Wall is focuses on girls who have lost their mother, we are also very interested in the messages and drawings of girls who have lost their father and boys who have lost a parent. We have, therefore provided instructions for counselors to carry out the program to these children as well. Although the first Message Wall will utilize the messages from girls who lost their mothers, future walls will focus on these other children.
BENEFITS TO THE PARTICIPANTS:
The MESSAGE WALL provides the girls who participate with:
- a cathartic and creative way to express feelings they have about their mothers.
- a unique way to share these feelings with other girls who have experienced a similar loss.
- an opportunity to share these feelings with relatives, friends and therapists.
- a way to feel less isolated by joining in the project with other girls throughout the world.
- a permanent, beautiful expression of their feelings and memories in an art piece that will be viewed by thousands throughout the world.
- an opportunity to view the completed wall on themessagewall.org website and in person as the completed MESSAGE WALL travels to different places throughout the world.
HOW IT WORKS:
- The MESSAGE WALL office contacts schools and bereavement programs throughout the world requesting their participation.
- Participating girls provide the messages and art work for the MESSAGE WALL, thru the mail or email. These messages are anonymous, or, if the girls want to, include only their first name.
- The project artists bring the messages and artwork together to form the left panel of the MESSAGE WALL.
- Participating girls, who would like to, can send a picture of themselves with their mother. The picture is not required to be part of the Message Wall project
- These pictures become part of the large face of the young girl on the right side of the MESSAGE WALL, brought together using a mosaic computer program that combines many small images to create a single large one.
- The middle panel of the wall is an explanation of the MESSAGE WALL project and how the wall was made.
- The actual MESSAGE WALL is displayed throughout the world at different schools community centers and hospitals for participants to see and for others to experience the impact of the wall.
- All participating bereavement programs will receive a poster size copy of the completed MESSAGE WALL for display in their program offices.
THE PROGRAM GUIDE AND INSTRUCTIONS:
MESSAGE WALL INTRODUCTION TO THE FACILITATOR:
The Message Wall is designed to gather words and drawings from girls whose moms’ have died. We strive toward creating a beautiful expression of the girls’ thoughts and feelings about their special relationship with their mothers. As you know, children and teens have a wide range of grief responses. We are not looking to provide therapy nor are we intervening on the memory we’d like to document and preserve an authentic response.
The structure of this project is flexible we are asking that you by facilitating the activities that you make the child feel comfortable by being warm, empathetic, nonjudgmental and patient with the young lady while she completes the brief activities. The supplies required are simply white paper and colored pencils, pens or markers. (Crayons are not recommended for the project as they do not show up well on the wall.)
For the younger girls we recommend that you read them the instructions and provide them with the encouragement to complete the project. If at any time she seems uncomfortable with the work, please offer her a break and reassure her that she is not required to participate. For the older girls, the
guidelines are here for them to read themselves, although these girls might also be more comfortable having you go over the guidelines with them and help them through the process.
If a participant requests to take the task home to work on, please comply with their request and provide them with the material. Ask that they return it the following day. We certainly encourage you to refer the child for therapeutic services should the task elicit a response that concerns you.
MESSAGE WALL INTRODUCTION TO GIRLS:
After someone close dies, there are so many thoughts, feelings and memories. Girls often share that after her mom dies, the feelings are much stronger. As you know, having your mom die is probably one of the most painful, confusing and troubling experiences you’ll ever have to cope with. The range of feelings are enormous -- some sad, some confusing, angry, some that make you feel like you’re going crazy. These feelings are all normal and expected. It really hurts knowing that we will not be able to hug the person again or speak with them. We want to teach everyone about them - we want them to know - we need you to help them learn.
While it may be hard to share personal feelings openly with people that really care about you, we are working on a unique project that joins thousands of girls whose mother’s have died. The Memory Wall offers you a special place to share something very special - a snapshot of your relationship with your mom - a place to tell the world of your very own experience and join with other girls to help people understand what its like to go through losing your mother. We want you to be understood by other girls, boys and adults. We want you to feel less alone by being part of something big that will have the power to educate others.
Your mom had an impact on your life - she played a special role - here’s an opportunity to remember and let other know about her, and your relationship with you by sharing a memory.
We ask that you complete a couple of activities. You can do it at your school or program and also take another packet home so you can take more time to complete it. Many girls feel more comfortable sharing personal information in writing or with drawings - it’s often easier than speaking before people. Therefore we have provided a space below for you to express yourself and tell us about your mom. We have also provided some phrases to help you express yourself, if you would like to make use of them.
But really, we want you to say and draw anything you want to. Its all up to you-think of it as a journal entry in which you express a deep thought or feeling. There are no right or wrong answers for this project. We are interested in your genuine and unique entry
You are in control of what you share and how much.
Below is a space for your messages and drawings. Please write whatever you want to share. If you would like to use them, there are also phrases on page 2 & 3 to help you express yourself. If you would like more space to express yourself please add additional pages of your own and send them to us. (the address is below at the bottom of page 3, or just give it to your teacher or counselor.)
We thank you very much for participating in this very special project. Some girls feel sad after completing the task while others share positive feelings reflecting on special moments.
When the Message Wall is completed we will share it with you. The Message Wall will be posted on our website at www.observantartists.org and the actual physical wall will be traveling around the world. We will post the Message Wall’s travel schedule.
PLACE YOUR MESSAGES AND YOUR DRAWINGS HERE
Please feel free to write here any message or drawing you would like to use to express your feelings and thought about your mother. There are no rules or restrictions about this. However, if you feel it would be helpful, you can go to page 2 & 3 where we have written some phrases to help you express yourself. If you want to, you can complete these phrases with your thoughts and feelings.
Please write your age here: ______________
If you would like your message to be signed please write your first name
only here. ___________________________
(Your name is not required to be part of the Message Wall)
PLEASE WRITE YOUR MESSAGES AND DRAWINGS HERE:
Here are some phrases to help you express yourself, if you would like to use them. Just fill in your messages and drawings in the boxes below the phrase:
- Some things that I remember you sharing with me that I will never forget are:
- When I found out that you died I had so many thoughts and feelings it felt like:
- When I find myself thinking about you (us), I most often think about:
- Memories that I often find myself thinking about are:
- Because of you mom, I learned:
- I always think of you mom when:
- I’ll always remember:
8. Memories and mementos are gifts that your mom left behind to help you remember her. What legacy do you cherish most which thoughts or mementos bring you comfort?
Please place your messages and drawing on this sheet and return them to:
The Message Wall Project
1594 Moffitt Avenue
Hewlett, New York 11557
THE RESEARCH AND BACKGROUND:
A woman’s loss of her mother is a particularly devastating event in her life. For a young girl the loss is much more profound . Children typically view their parents as invincible and as their foundation for security in the world. The death of a parent shatters this sense of safety and protectiveness in the world. Children are also less able to articulate their feelings and to make sense of them. Maxine Harris in her book, “The Loss That Is Forever” (Plume, 1995) states,
When children experience the death of a mother or father, they are in every sense “at a loss for words” If they are young enough, they literally have no words to help them understand what has happened. Even if they have the vocabulary to talk about their loss, the flood of feelings, likened by one woman to a tidal wave, is powerful enough to overwhelm any conceptual abilities that do exist.”
Hope Edelman in her 1995 book, Letters from Motherless Daughters states that after the initial period of devastation and disorganization that follows the death of a girls mother, the child’s ability to mourn is proportional to 1) the response of her surviving parent or primary caregiver and 2) the availability of a supportive environment in which she feels safe to express her sadness, anger, blame or guilt.” Daughters without this support, she states, “may suppress or deny their true feelings for years, stuffing them under layers of stoicism and false maturity.”
The Message Wall is an opportunity for these girls with help in the process of finding a safe way to express their feelings and thoughts about their mother. The program guides them through the difficult but important step of giving expression to their feelings. The program will motivate them to take this step by showing them that their messages will be part of a great joint effort.
The Message Wall will help relieve some of the loneliness and isolation that accompanies the loss of a parent and will allow many girls, for perhaps the first time, to see their loss as contributing to something positive. The Message Wall is each girl’s way to express herself, to seek self-understanding about her loss and to be understood by others. Through the project she will join together with other girls throughout the world who have experienced a similar loss and by joining together create something beautiful and powerful, helping others to understand what it is like to experience the loss of one’s mother.
THE ORGANIZATION AND SPONSORS:
The Observant Artists Community Circle is a not-for-profit 501( c ) ( 3 ) organization founded in 1996. The purpose and mission of the organization is to utilize the talents of the artistic community to address pressing community concerns. Artistic expression can communicate social issues in effective and powerful ways, bringing public attention and insight into areas that are often overlooked or poorly understood. A recent ongoing project of the Observant Artists Community Circle is THE WORRY WALL. In this program children are given an opportunity to express their anxieties and fears in a post 9/11 world through words and art. The WORRY WALL project worked with schools and art therapists and came into the classroom to work with students, helping them to freely express their fears. The WORRY WALL was sponsored by F.E.G.S., the world’s largest private social service organization and can be viewed on the WORRY WALL link on this website.
THE PROJECT DIRECTORS, ARTISTS AND PERSONNEL:
Neal C. Goldberg, Ph.D. holds a doctorate in Educational Psychology from Fordham University and received his post-doctorate training in both child/adolescent and adult psychotherapy at the Advanced Institute for Analytic Psychotherapy in New York. He has been an adjunct professor at Fordham University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and St. Johns University. Dr. Goldberg is the co-author of “Saying Goodbye: A Handbook for Teens Dealing with Loss and Mourning” (2004). He has been studying and performing therapeutic clowning for the past five years and in 2004 founded the Compassionate Clown Alley organization to provide therapeutic and educational programs for children.
Darren and Naomi Singer are the artists consultants on the Message Wall Project. They are the co-directors of the art school, Studio Rembrandt, located in Cedarhurst, New York. They have worked with Observant Artists before as the artists who constructed the Worry Wall which can be viewed on this website. ( see Worry Wall link) Naomi Singer and her family are the founders of The Network, a program to provide mentors for children and teens who have lost a parent to cancer. The program matches the children up with adults who lost a parent to cancer in their youth. The Network is an organization made up of adults and young adults who lost a parent to cancer at a young age, have gone on to lead productive lives, and now are volunteering to help young people who recently lost a parent to cancer.
When The Network is made aware of a child or young adult who could use our help they are welcomed as a new member and assign an Advisor to them. The Advisors are volunteers; they have all experienced the loss of a parent to cancer at a young age and have gone on to lead full, happy, productive lives. The Advisor will take an interest in the new member, help and support them, and when the time is right, bring them into a group of peers. The Network tries to provide new members with an Advisor whose experience most closely matches their own. For those who are unable to meet in person with an advisor, an e-advisor can be set up to communicate with the child or teen online.
Richard Borah is the President and founder of the Observant Artists Community Circle and the originator of the Message Wall project. Mr. Borah is a professional business writer and development consultant. Together with the organization Mr. Borah he has participated in numerous community arts projects utilizing visual, musical and theatrical art.
Andrea Borah, M.S.W. is an advisor on the project. Ms. Borah is the director of the TOVA Mentoring Program in Cedarhurst, New York. Since 1997, the TOVA program has mentored over 500 children in 1st through 12th grade providing one-on-one mentoring utilizing the Big Brother/Big Sister program guidelines.
THE ART TECHNIQUES USED TO MAKE THE MESSAGE WALL:
There are three large panels that make up the Message Wall. The left panel will be a collogue of the messages and drawing of the girls participating in the program. These messages and drawings will be put on the will anonymously and be viewable on the actual wall or on the web. The web-based Message Wall will allow the girls to see their message up close by zooming in on it and also to see how it fits into the overall wall.
The middle panel of the wall will be a description in words of the what the Message Wall is all about. This panel provides anyone looking at the actual wall or the web-based wall with an understanding of the purpose of the project, the participants and how the viewer or someone they know can join in the project.
The left panel is a unique artistic creation. The large single face of a girl that makes up the panel is constructed from a mosaic of thousands of very small photos of girls and their mothers. These pictures are also sent into the program anonymously by participating girls. It is not at all required to send in pictures and some girls feel more comfortable sending in only messages or messages and art. The idea of this panel is to dramatically communicate the idea that the girls are not alone in their plight and also to express the idea that a girls relationship with her mother always remains a part of the girls self even after her mother is gone.
Please contact us:
By email at : firstname.lastname@example.org
By phone at: 516-448-6069
By mail at: The Message Wall Project
1594 Moffitt Avenue
Hewlett, New York 11557
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUPPORTING THE PROJECT:
The Observant Artists Community Circle is a not-for-profit 501 ( c ) (3 ) organization. Contributions can be made by check made out to “Observant Artists Community Circle and mailed to :
Observant Artists Community Circle
1594 Moffitt Avenue
Hewlett, New York 11557
There are sponsorship opportunities for additional Message Walls that are being planned. The Message Wall can be dedicated to the memory of a loved one and this dedication would be written into the middle panel of the Message Wall.
Please contact Richard Borah at Observant Artists Community Circle at 516-448-6069.
THE WORRY WALL PROJECT:
(“Insert Picture of Worry Wall Here”)
The Worry Wall is large (15’ by 6’) display made up of art and poetry from over five hundred sixty two students in New York Metropolitan area schools. Each of these 8” X11” panels has artwork and poetry from the children and teens of our community. Students were asked to express their worries in words and pictures. Children and teens have worries that affect them deeply but that they may not always share with parents and teachers.
Our hope is that by accessing these thoughts and expressing them, students would not only “get things off their chests” and feel better, but listen to each other, share some of their fears and learn about coping skills. We also want you to look and see what is on the minds of these young people. Perhaps this will open up the lines of communications and improve our understanding and ability as parents, teachers or friends to help them work through their fears or at least not endure them alone.