Expressing Grief Your Way

Art, music, and journaling offer therapeutic tools that can empower, relax and heal us

When words fail us, we can find other ways to express the confusion and intensity of grief and maneuver life without our loved one.

Tapping into creativity

You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from the creative process. Expressing difficult emotions through art releases them and clears the way for healing. You can:

  •  Paint or draw
  •  Make a collage
  •  Work with clay or paper mache

Denise Brown, Art Therapist, suggests creating a memory box from a container decorated with craft items, photos, fabrics and images. Include mementos of your loved one. It becomes a container to “hold” your grief when you feel overwhelmed, or when desired.

When you use art as an expression for your grief, try not to analyze or critique the piece but do ponder it. What does it tell you about your loss?

Music can soothe

Whether or not you have formal training, music can be a useful tool to cope with and express complicated emotions during grieving.

  •  Sing or play an instrument
  •  Listen to music you shared
  •  Write a song or poem

Playing or listening to music stimulates memories and helps re-create precious sights, sounds and smells through the power of visualization.

Emily Olschki, Music Therapist, suggests a family memory project called “Soundtrack of Life,” which includes listing your loved one’s favorite songs and recording yourself or others singing them. Or use iTunes to acquire recordings and create a compilation CD.

Journaling or scrapbooking

Writing brings forth our subconscious and conscious thoughts to uncover ideas, patterns and connections we wouldn’t otherwise recognize.

If writing does not come naturally, try scrapbooking. Pages can contain a combination of words, images or your own artwork. You can make a collage from your own photographs or things you find in magazines that speak to you.

Jan Farr, Volunteer, journaled during her husband’s illness.  “Writing helped me surrender my feelings, enjoy memories and express my gratitude for the privilege of accompanying Jim on his final journey.”

There are no rules for journaling, just start. Write about how you feel today, without judgment or expectation. Describe what you’re discovering about yourself, such as your newfound strength or changing priorities. Write about your loved one, what you miss (or don’t miss), what you wish you could have said.

An emotional outlet

No matter what creative expression you try, you may be surprised at the intensity of the emotions that arise. Allow yourself to sit with them, cry if you need to, and breathe.

Copyright 2014 © Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.

Originally published in the Winter/Fall issue of Journeys.