Loss: (noun) the fact or process of losing something or someone.

pictures to prompt thought and discussion about loss

Girl with Balloon Bansky (2002) original mural on Waterloo Bridge, London

The British public voted this picture one of its favorite images. It was used to support the 2014 campaign to raise awareness of the plight of Syrian refuges, who are alive but have lost everything.

Image published under Creative Commons licence

Wood, Thomas William; Private Thomas Walker; The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Needle and Thread- Private Walker Thomas Wood (1856) Hunterian Museum, London

An injured soldier, Private Walker, is shown recovering from a head wound he sustained in the Crimean War. Private Walker has swapped gun and bayonet for needle and thread and is possibly learning to cope with his loss by creatively repurposing his uniform as a military quilt.

What might Private Walker might be thinking as he stitches the scrap uniforms?

books to prompt thought and discussion about loss

Grief is the thing with feathers Max Porter 2015 Published by Faber and Faber 2015

Until I read this book, I did not appreciate that a crow features in the mythology of many cultures and is often used as a metaphor to signify dying.

This book is not an easy read, both with regard to its style and its content. Some of the poems in the story make you catch your breath. The way in which the author tells the story of death and loss is both powerful and beautiful.

films to prompt thought and discussion about loss

A Late Quartet (2012) Directed by Yaron Zilberman

This is the story of a musician, one of a quartet, who slowly, initially imperceivably develops Parkinson’s Disease. The film explores the loss that occurs in his life; his health, vocation, shared passion and friends.

poetry to prompt thought and discussion about loss

Carrying the Elephant – A Memoir of Love and Loss Michael Rosen (2002) Published by Penguin

This moving collection of poems was inspired by the sudden and tragic death of Rosen’s teenage son from meningitis. His story in poems explore the pain and burden of grief and loss.

Churchyards John Betjeman (1932) Originally published by S.P.C.K in ‘Poems in the Porch’ currently published by Pan in ‘Church Poems’

The poem can be read in full on the Poetry Foundation website.

The poem comments on the changes in how our churchyards are used and the language we use to talk about the dead.

‘For churchyards then,
Were not so grim as now they sound,
And horns of ale were handed round
For which churchwardens used to pay
On each especial vestry day
‘twas thus the village drunk it’s beer
With its relations buried near,’
‘Oh why do people waste their breath,
Inventing dainty names for death?
‘We do not read “At peace at last”
But simply “died”’

What words do you use to describe and discuss death?

sculpture to prompt thought and discussion about loss

Straight Ai Weiwei shown at the Royal Academy, London in 2015

Straight is a 90-tonne installation created by Ai Wei Wei. It was made as a political statement to represent the loss of 5000 children’s lives who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when their poorly constructed school collapsed. Wei constructed the installation from the hand-straightened reinforcing bars that his team retrieved from the rubble of the students’ school. Ai Wei Wei intended his work to draw attention to the corrupt and shoddy construction practices in China that he perceived put young lives at inappropriate risk. The Chinese Government interpreted ‘Straight’ as criticism of their policy and imprisoned for eleven months.


More thoughts about loss

As part of Y&H HEE Spring School May 2018 resources at the ‘Yorkshire Sculpture Park’ and ‘The Hepworth’ in Wakefield were used to consider how people cope with the impact of loss.

The concept of ‘loss’ was considered from four perspectives and word pictures were created using Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture Spring (Plaster)1966 as a framework.











Aspects of our lives that may be subject to loss

Companionship, continuity, autonomy, sanity, time, weight, safety, rules, stability, trust, freedom, health, environment, expectations, relationships, change, loved ones, identity, control, confidence, work, youth

The impact of loss

Uncertainty, sadness, fear, guilt, anxiety, directionless, opportunity, regret, overwhelmed, isolation, ruminating, responsibility, loss of self-esteem, loneliness, pressure, anger, grief, emptiness, sorrow, confusion, hope, relief, powerlessness, immobility.

Ways of coping with loss

Re-framing, understanding, finding meaning, connection, working, creativity, order, empathy, re-purposing, memorials, talking, re-writing, humour, laughter, recuperation, bravado, rebuilding, calmness, normalising, compassion, reassurance, challenge.

Thoughts about how we can learn to accept loss

We can learn to accept loss and to let go of the negative emotions associated with it.

Life has more than one thread. 

The emotional journey of loss is normal but personal. 

There are no rules – everyone is different. 

Kintsugi – The Japanese art of repairing pottery ‘making the cracks beautiful’ 

Loss is multi-layered, is everywhere and effects everyone.

Learn to fill the void with purpose, connect with your environment, use laughter and humour. 

Seeking solace in words of wisdom, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’,- Julian of Norwich.

You could use the four statements as questions to provide a framework for a teaching session.

Two exhibitions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park inspired our thinking.









Common Ground

‘Common Ground’ is a charity set up to celebrate the relationship between people and places. The exhibition displayed some of the charity’s most iconic initiatives. Many of these were related to the concept of loss; e.g. lost local tradition and customs. The statement in the picture above highlights the incongruence between the loss of nature and wildlife when a new housing estate is built and given a name that evokes memories of how the environment used to look.

Beyond Time Chiharu Shiota

Chiharu’s work explores the concepts of loss and memory. She used woollen thread to create evocations of absent objects. In many of her installations she uses red wool to symbolise blood and human relationships. Red string also plays an important role in an old Japanese saying, ‘everyone has a red string tied round their finger when they are born and the string connects the newborn to other people who will have an impact in its life.’

The installation in the Chapel at YSP was created out of white wool and represented loss – the lost sound from a piano that had burnt in a neighbour’s house fire.

page created 2018