Untangling grief

A black and white scientific drawing of a 6 plant root system, showing the plants above ground and their tangled roots below the surface.
Root system from the research archives


I’ve heard people describe a panic attack as something that rises inside them. Thinking back on my own experience, I remember everything started to spin, and a rush of emotions prevented me from breathing or seeing properly. I remember people speaking to me, but nothing made sense, as if I wasn’t in my body; everything was muffled and distant.

making sense of the pieces

My cousin was a bright light, beaming with love—the type of person who was fiercely present, always contemplating life’s questions about finding meaning. Like so many people, he also struggled with mental health and addiction. He went from living on the streets of East Hastings in Vancouver to finding his way and helping others at an employment centre through the support of my mum. He was unreachable for years, and when he came back into our lives, it seemed like he was finding a bit of happiness, but we only saw what was on the surface.

black and white drawing, consisting of thousands of dots, of driftwood roots
My drawing of tangled driftwood

unearthing the silences

I remember hearing alcohol swishing around in coffee mugs as the family sat together after my cousin passed away. Everyone was lost for words. I sat there thinking about his death connected to the past and how prevalent addiction is in our family. Nobody, including me, talked about these tangled histories aloud. Perhaps it’s easier to see his overdose as an isolated event or see him purely as an addict, unlike generations before him or the those who continue to precede him.


We can’t remove difficult memories, but we can move through them and find tools to support us when they inevitably come up. Art offers me a place of solace. It quiets my mind and allows me to flee to an inner world. I’ve written about art as a resource for healing before, but I think I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for art as therapy during these challenging times.

Black and white drawing of a Peyote cactus plant with a very intense tangled root system –– crated entirely with thousands of dots to make up the plant.
My drawing of the tangled roots of a peyote plant
Covers of the books listed below
Image of a few of the resources listed below



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Aly Blenkin

Aly Blenkin

Writing about the intersection between design, technology, and impact.