Where does your grief live in you?
Does it stick in the back of your throat? Has it lodged under your solar plexus in a painful ache? Does it sit uneasily in your gut? Perhaps you just know it’s there, covering your mind with a film of grey that makes it hard to think clearly.
Getting to know our grief, and how and where we hold it in our bodies, can be an important part of healing. Some people worry that focusing on these feelings is going to result in prolonging their grief. Paradoxically, the opposite is the case.
The more we push our feelings away, and the more we try to ignore our body’s messages to us, the more likely we are to remain stuck in unhealthy patterns.
Avoidance and constant distraction won’t work: but we do need to set some safe boundaries for ourselves when we engage with difficult feelings. On one hand, we don’t want to be so distanced from our own experience that we spend our life in a state of foggy dissociation. On the other hand, it’s not safe to walk through the whole day emotionally flooded.
It’s ok to decide when and where you’re going to get in touch with your grief, and to keep it to a comfortable amount of time. Therapy is a great place to do this.
Art therapy can be especially helpful for grief because not only do you have the safety net of a qualified therapist and their confidential office space, you also have the amazing power of art to contain and express your emotions!
How can art therapy help me through my grief? Think back to those first questions I asked – were you able to come up with an answer pretty quickly? Most people find that talking about emotions in terms of the physical senses (like “the weight of guilt,” “rage burning inside me,” “all choked up with sadness”) comes naturally. An art therapist might take it just a bit further, and ask about more senses, like “Is that guilt heavy like a rock, or an anvil, or something else? How much does it weigh? What colour is it? What texture is it?”
Now imagine that, instead of just coming up with words for it, you’ve got help and guidance to create a visual representation of your feeling. Maybe even in three dimensions! You’ll be able to change it, shrink it, imagine your life with it or without it, make a house for it – the possibilities are infinite!
Most importantly, while you’re working on it, you’re using your hands, your thinking mind, and your heart all at the same time to create something new out of the pain and find a broader perspective.
The process of working with art materials, with no pressure to create something “for show,” is pleasurable and relaxing, allowing you the space and time to process painful emotions.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content provided by Frances Bryant-Scott, RSW, BCATR is intended for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical or psychological advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you read in this blog (or any blog for that matter!)