By The Center for Grief Care and Education
When one thinks about counseling and support groups, the emphasis on using words to communicate feelings and thoughts often comes to mind. However, The Center for Grief Care and Education (CGCE) counselors at San Diego Hospice understand there are times when words fail to adequately describe emotions and experiences. During these times, CGCE counselors turn to alternative forms of grief support, such as art therapy.
“Art is the only way I can let out the pain of losing my wife, Lilliana,” said Andrew, who currently uses art therapy under the guidance of his CGCE counselor.
Using images, rather than spoken words, provides a safe outlet for feelings and can be a powerful tool in an individual’s grief journey. For instance, during Andrew’s art therapy sessions, he often sits quietly as he presses the oil pastels against the paper, creating a myriad of zigzags in different blues and greens. As his creation comes together in the form of an image, his counselor can see the tension in his body dissipate.
“Sometimes, the grief fills my body and my soul until I think that I can’t handle it anymore,” Andrew reflects. “But then I create a piece of art and something in my body shifts. I find myself being able to move forward.”
Exploring artistic mediums allows individuals to face the challenges that occur when a loved one dies. Even if a person hasn’t picked up a crayon or marker since childhood, using art to express their feelings can help in a number of ways, including:
- Creating a concrete image to externalize feelings
- Expressing feelings that overwhelm other senses, including speech
- Providing a beginning to the healing process through recognition and acknowledgement of feelings
- Memorializing a memory, image, or feeling with color and shapes
If you feel art could be beneficial in your grief journey, we encourage you to start simple: keep a small art journal that you can fill with a combination of words and images using basic art supplies, such as pens, colored pencils, and pictures clipped from magazines or newspapers. In time, you may find you don’t need words to express yourself, at all.
For more information, or to participate, in art therapy, please contact The Center for Grief Care and Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (619) 278-6480.