10 Artists on Working, Living and Creating Through Loss

Sigrid Nunez, author
Conor Oberst, musician
Bridget Everett, performer
Ben Kweller, musician
Jesmyn Ward, author
Justin Hardiman, photographer
Julie Otsuka, author
Lila Avilés, filmmaker
Richard E. Grant, actor
Luke Lorentzen, filmmaker

When Jesmyn Ward was writing her 2013 book, “Men We Reaped,” she could feel the presence of her brother, who had been killed years earlier by a drunk driver. She still talks to him, as well as to her partner, who died in 2020.

“This may just be wishful thinking, but talking to them and being open to feeling them answer, that enables me to live in spite of their loss,” she told me.

While filming the HBO series “Somebody Somewhere,” Bridget Everett, playing a woman mourning the loss of her sister, was grieving the loss of her own. Working on the show was a way to still live with her, in a way, she said: “There’s something that’s less scary about sharing time with my sister when it’s through art or through making the show or through a song.”

One of the many things you learn after losing a loved one is that there are a lot of us grieving out there. Some people are not just living with loss but also trying to create or experience something meaningful, to counter the blunt force of the ache.

We talked to 10 artists across music, writing, photography, film and comedy about the ways their work, in the wake of personal loss, has deepened their understanding of what it means to grieve and to create.

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