Ottawa doctor helps families grieve through art

Dr. Marisa Azad shows off her painting to a family. (Photo courtesy: Dr. Marisa Azad)

Often when a family member passes away, nothing is harder than the bereavement process afterwards.

One Ottawa doctor is helping families cope, through her art.

Infectious disease doctor and fine artist, Dr. Marisa Azad has been painting for more than 25 years, but only recently started using her talent to help families through some of the toughest times in their life.

"I went home post call that day in my stupor, and I just sat down and started painting," says Azad. "The end product, when I actually get to present a piece of me that's imported into this canvas. And when I present this painting to families, and I see their response, their faces light up. There’s no better feeling in the world than that."

Custom paintings with special meanings, given to families who have lost a loved one in the ICU. But this is more than just a nice gesture.

"From this study, it would appear that my artwork and the process of making these paintings for families may have helped them navigate the bereavement process," says Azad.

Deb Springle lost her son Chris four years ago and says what Dr. Azad is doing for others is more than anyone could ask for.

"She’s not just your ordinary doctor. There’s something there," says Springle. "She cares a lot about the people in which she comes in contact with. And she sees the struggles of grieving for a loved one who’s passed on. And to be able to give them such a gift like this, it's amazing."

These symbolic paintings have helped families feel less alone when grieving. Combining Azad’s love for painting with her passion for treating patients. 

"For me as a physician, it just reminds me why we treat patients and why we help patients," says Azad. "It’s such a great feeling to know that I can help people in this way."

So far, Dr. Azad has gifted 10 families with her works of art and says she wants to continue to do this for her entire career.