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Grief is often overwhelming and hard to describe to others who haven’t experienced it. When you can’t find the words, art is there to help you live your best life and support you to process your grief.

There are healing powers in all of us. Each and every one of us is creative.

Canadian author Ann Voskamp says it the best, “When Grief is deepest, words are fewest.” So when you can’t find the words, create art.

What is creativity?

The following definition by [email protected] states

“All creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomenon and, to generate solutions.”

I love the part where it says it, “generates solutions.” That’s the idea of art therapy. Art therapy is a recent therapeutic framework.

In 1942 a British artist, who was recovering from tuberculous coined the phrase ‘art therapy’ because it helped him in recuperation. It was after this experience that psychologists and psychiatrists began to research it.

Creating art helps to understand grief and live life again without your loved one. Grief impacts each person in a different and unique way. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain exactly how you feel or even know what you feel, art is a lovely way to express your grief and help you grieve.

You don’t have to be talented to create art.

As Pablo Picasso says,

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls”

Art reconnects you with that childlike sense of play and joy. When you first created something, it connects your mind and body when you can’t find the words.

Why is art valuable through grieving?

  • It’s grounding
  • Helps you be present in the moment
  • Helps you connect with yourself
  • It’s non-threatening
  • You can create anything you think of
  • Helps communication
  • Improves concentration
  • Reduces the feeling of isolation. That’s why it’s so beneficial during challenging times
  • Reduces anxiety and depression

 

Research and treatment

Art has been used for treatment of dementia. There’s loads of research on the cognitive effects of creating art, such as drawing that stimulates the memories and helps them to reconnect with the world. They’ve also seen benefits in people with depression, anxiety and even cancer. Improvements have been seen with improved memory, reasoning and resilience.

Everyone can create art, don’t judge yourself about what you produce because this is an expression of your grieving self.

When I talk about art, it’s not only drawing or painting. It’s craft, sculpture, digital art, writing, dance, film, literature, music, singing, gardening and culinary arts. Art helps you express yourself without words.

Recent brain research shows that art promotes mental health during the pandemic and lockdowns. Where people are isolated, more and more are turning to art. It’s an innate desire to find ways to feel good.

The following is a quote from Dr. Stephanie Lewis Harta a Clinical Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Stephanie Lewis Harta is quoted as saying “Visual images may be more intensely personal and more immediate than verbal descriptions”.

Art therapy has been studied and used in many different fields, from hospitals to aged care facilities.

 

An activity to try for yourself.

Grab a pencil, paints, colours or crayons, and a piece of paper. Take hold of the pencil or whatever you choose and move it around the paper page for a couple of minutes. Don’t think about it, just use the motion to draw.

Try not to judge what you’ve created, this is an expression of how you’re grieving. After you’ve finished, you could step back and take time to describe it in words. Does it help you understand more about how you’re feeling? Journalling after you create art often helps you find the words to navigate through grieving. Although you don’t need to have this step.

 

The wrap up.

Art helps when there are no words. We are all artists and can express ourselves in and through creating art. I’m a big believer in the saying that art is in the eye of the beholder. We criticise ourselves in so many ways, I encourage you to have a go at the activity and see what you create and what it feels like, to have created it.

It’s especially good for reducing stress, lifting your mood, elevating concentration, memory and so much more.

I hope this helps

Have fun, I hope this brings joy to your day.