“I can’t do art, I’m not an artist!”

I hear this phrase often when I introduce art in grief counseling. Perhaps you’ve thought or even said this before. We sometimes think that in order to do art, we must first be "artists." Often, we approach art by asking "How will this look?" We focus on the finished product rather than the process. This can keep us from experiencing the therapeutic benefits of art.

At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source. When you are an artist, you are a healer; a wordless trust of the same mystery is the foundation of your work and its integrity. ~Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

Art can be especially healing within the context of grief and loss. When we lose someone we love, our whole world turns upside down. Grief can impact our being in multiple ways and can trickle over into many areas of our life. One day we might feel sadness, another anger, and another joy. Often we feel several emotions at once. Grief can be overwhelming and even hard to describe.

This is where art can be a powerful tool. Art gives us a way to express when words are not enough. The benefits of art-making are expansive and can be therapeutic to the grief process in many ways:

  • Art opens up room to explore topics, emotions, and themes in our grief that may not be fully present in our consciousness.
  • Art provides a safe place to express some of the more painful feelings in grief.
  • Art gives us an opportunity for cognitive distance – a chance to step back, observe, and reflect on our emotions.
  • Art facilitates connections between both hemispheres of our brain, which stimulates healing.
  • Art can be a tool for self-care and promotes relaxation.
  • Art allows us to be successful and develop a sense of self-confidence.

If you find yourself struggling to fully express your grief, or perhaps feel stuck, consider using art as a way to express and explore what you are feeling. Try to let go of any preconceived ideas about how your art should look. When we shift our focus to the process and allow ourselves to create without judgement, art can become a conduit for deeper exploration, growth, and healing.

--Hannah T., grief counselor