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Art Heals: How to Incorporate Creativity into the Grieving Process

July 26th, 2023

“Art is a wound turned into light.” – Georges Braque

The act of creating art has demonstrated powerful healing benefits for nearly as long as recorded human history. From hieroglyphic drawings of an imagined afterlife and music-filled funeral processions in ancient Egypt to the colorful costumes and skulls of Dia de los Meurtos that celebrate long-awaited reunions with the dead, art has served as a tribute to lost loved ones spanning global cultures as well as time.

Today, modern art therapy has served as a recognized medical healing tool for over 70 years. Artistic self-expression has been scientifically proven to connect the body and the brain, helping decrease negative emotions while increasing positive thoughts. Most importantly, for many, it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to find the right words to articulate intense emotions following a devastating loss. Creating art is an ideal way to express a roller-coaster of feelings and reduce stress without having to say a word.

An Emotional Outlet

From painting and dancing to playing an instrument and sculpting, art provides a healing outlet of self-expression that’s critical to processing complex emotions. In the days, months and even years following the death of a friend or family member, you may feel sad, depressed, hurt, confused, angry or a combination of them all. Talking through your emotions can feel daunting, but drawing or painting how you feel can release that energy in a cathartic way. Everyone can be an artist and every piece of art created is valid for each individual healing journey.

Art comes in all forms. Following trauma, it may be beneficial to practice a form of artistic expression you’re already familiar with. If you’ve enjoyed dancing or playing the piano in the past, you’re more likely to find comfort rediscovering these art forms during a time of vulnerability. Different art mediums speak to different people, which is what makes art so special and personal. So choose what feels most comforting and healing to you.

Find the Meaning in Healing

Embracing your artistic expression can also aid in finding meaning in loss. Why someone died is one of life’s most vexing and troublesome questions. But through art, you can begin to make sense of your loss as you navigate the grieving process. Draw a picture of a lost friend or family member in a favorite place, write a poem about what they mean to you, dance in your living room to their favorite song, create a mural that captures their spirit. Not only will you pay beautiful tribute to their life, but these forms of creative expression will spark strength and resilience, helping reduce stress as you discover new insights about yourself and the world around you.

Create a Safe Space for Art … and You

During the grieving process, it’s important to give yourself space to heal. Creating a private creative space designed to soothe, energize and inspire can be an important step in the healing process. This can be a corner in a garden, a spare bedroom or even a sketchbook that’s opened only by you. Art is a welcome distraction to help the days, and sometimes sleepless nights, pass more quickly. When you do feel yourself struggling, escape to this space to regroup and create. At the same time, while creativity is a deeply individual experience, you can also use art to build connections with others. Finding a community of like-minded people who understand your pain and, if you’re comfortable, share your work with them. You can even seek out a specially trained and certified art therapist to more productively guide your creative efforts.

A Showcase for Your Loved One

However you choose to channel your creativity, you will make their memory shine as you bring out some of the very best that lives in you. And whether you keep your art private, share it online or put it on display in your home or office, you’ll forever be the maker of a beautiful and deeply personal reminder of their legacy. Integrating art into your life may even serve as a turning point that opens doors to new and unexpected opportunities. Most of all, someway, somehow, your departed loved one will be smiling down on you and all you create in their memory.