Emotional Healing Through Art Therapy and Grief Counseling

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By Tess Thompson

Forgetting a loss may not be possible in some cases-- especially when it involves the death of a loved one. Many times, the grief that one experiences is so intense, people find it difficult to come to terms with a changed life-- despite conscious efforts for its resolution. Contrary to the general belief, emotional healing from grief is not about forgetting the loss. Grief is actually about gaining a positive mental attitude and remembering the deceased with fond memories and less pain.

There are many theories of grief and emotions that people may go through while grieving, as well as various ways and means of managing. A mournful person experiences overwhelming emotions that may be difficult for some to manage on their own. In most cases, family support is seldom available, given the nuclear family structures that are now prevalent in most societies. Unresolved grief can lead to depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts or physical ailments. Grief counseling, in such cases, provides a welcome help to a grieving individual to restore emotional.

There are many tools available to grief counselors, including patient listening, subtle suggestions, group activities and much more. Recently, grief counselors and psychiatrists are relying more on non-verbal therapeutic tools like art and ‘guided visualization’ to help participants overcome grief. Whether as a group activity or on individual basis, art therapy that includes drawing and other art forms provides a handy mode of giving expression to feelings that may be otherwise difficult to put to words.

The basic approach of grief counseling is to aid in the grieving person in:

  • Accepting the loss.
  • Identifying the feeling and expressing it in some form.
  • Realizing that grief is a normal human reaction and depends upon individual personality.
  • Understanding that there is no right or wrong manner of grieving and that the process is fairly individualistic.
  • Understanding coping skills like meditation and relaxation techniques.
  • Relocating to enable smoother re-entry in the mainstream.

The use of art therapy as a method of expression is a relatively new therapy. There has been significant research to explore the use of art as a means of self expression during mourning.

The underlying theoretical explanation regarding its use is that art was initially used by humans to alleviate feelings of anxiety, fear, crisis and threats to life. Visual imagery used by ancient civilizations to mark events like death gives credence to this theory. Despite evolution of language to its present heights, there is still a dearth of words that can be used to express the variety of thoughts and emotions that humans experience during grief, and expression is basic to promoting emotional wellness.

Regardless of the credibility of the theory behind it, art does help humans in coping with trauma caused by death. To be able to accept a loss by identification of emotions in absence of words, art is the next best mode of expression.



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