Heartful Mandalas

 In Guest Blogs

Dorothy Allison is one of the most positive, supportive people I know. Before learning of the story she shares below, it would be easy to think her life was only wrapped in warm, snuggly blankets of protection. I met Dorothy through a Facebook group she started, Mandalas for a Season, and soon saw her gift for words as well as her artful mandalas. She lives in Australia and I value the internet for allowing connections like these. Her willingness to share a profoundly personal reality and how art, specifically in the form of mandalas, offers encouragement to each of us. If you choose to join Mandalas for a Season, a group that only allows mandala posts, you will be rewarded by seeing the daily kindness and optimism that Dorothy offers. No Pollyanna, but rather a deep-felt joy in the value of connection.

And now the page is hers.



I describe myself as an accidental amateur artist. Before retirement, I was in education. I joined the site 100Mandalas and began my mandala journey in earnest in October 2014. Tragedy in January 2016 in my family life led me on an exponential growth curve, where mandalas became a healing tool for devastating grief.

Why Heartful Mandalas?

For half his life my son, Jarrod Allison, fought the demon of mental illness. Multiple suicide attempts, and hospitalisations, despite expert psychiatric care, loving family and some amazing friends were the story of his life. His illness and injuries sustained in his first suicide attempt ultimately resulted in social isolation, inability to work, and paralysing anxiety. Though he loved his bodyboarding, golf, and basketball he became unable to do what he loved. His family and close friends supported him but love could not remove the mental anguish. We are free now to lift the lid on another example of family sadness. Jarrod ended his life on January 20th, 2016, two weeks before his 37th birthday, knowing he was loved. His funeral was on his birthday.

The Blue Phase

This icon mandala was created by me, one week before Jarrod died. Every line, dot, stroke, and touch of colour represented the twists and turns of Jarrod’s life.


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Beyond Blue


37 Gratitude Mandalas

In the first month following his death, I created 37 gratitude mandalas to mark each one of his years of life. The first one was “The Brightest Star” and the last one was “Brave Flowers”, for the battle he fought.


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

The Brightest Star


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Brave Flowers


A Year of Remembrance Mandalas

During the first year, I made a mandala for every month, on the 20th, honouring Jarrod, and marking our journey. Despair gave way to quiet acceptance, that Jarrod was in charge of his own destiny and because he is free from suffering, we can go on living.


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

One Month Remembrance


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Ten Month Remembrance


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Eleven Month Remembrance

Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

One Year Remembrance


These words by Powderfinger were chosen by Jarrod to sum up his own perspective: “this life, well it’s slipping right through my hands, these days turned out nothing like I had planned…”

Jarrod was my greatest encourager with my amateur art efforts. He loved art. I created the “icon” mandala to mark his life and on the day his ashes were released to the ocean, I drew a sand mandala on the beach, releasing it to the tide, just like him.


Dorothy Allison, Heartful Mandalas, Ann Grasso Pattern Art


Dorothy Allison


Showing 8 comments
  • Jane

    Sad but uplifting story along with beautiful mandalas

  • Fabienne

    This is such a sad but beautiful story at the same time. I admire Dorothy so much for how she found, with mandalas, a way to accept her son’s death and live with it.

  • Beth Lapin

    Very powerful and therapeutic process. And how brave and caring to share your journey

  • Roseanne V. Sabol

    Thank you for sharing your story. Blessings to you and your family, Dorothy.

  • Lise Orwig

    Oh my, what an amazing woman! The tribute to her son makes my heart swell with joy while tears fill my eyes. It’s a rare person who can share something so utterly personal and so universally felt. I just lost my dad, and while no one should outlive their child, I will treasure Dorothy’s courage and resilience. Thank you, Ann, for sharing this:)

  • Anne Smyers

    What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your story, and wishing you continued peace of heart in your journey of acceptance and love.

  • Ann-Marie Gillett

    The mandalas Dorothy created so beautifully reflect her way of seeking solace from the unspeakable sadness of losing a child. May she continue to create them and find peace in doing so.

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      Ann Grasso

      Thank you to all who have seen the positive side of Dorothy’s story.

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