How Art And Yoga Can Help Manage Grief

Art and Grief

Losing a loved one is considered one of the most stressful life-changing events (as found in the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory.) For this reason, a variety of professional and natural/alternative approaches are useful to help those who are grieving.

Art – especially art therapy, has proven successful among bereaved people of all ages. As Jean M Gidlund stated in her doctoral thesis on grief and art, children “can have difficulty expressing their grief with others and may verbally and emotionally shut down.” Those lacking the ability to express their emotions can benefit from art, which can help to make sense of painful and sometimes confusing emotions. Those who practice yoga know that this millenary practice can help manage stress inspire a more creative mindset, but how can we blend our yoga practice with the visual arts?

Art And Complicated Grief

Many people find themselves stuck in a persistent state of intense, complicated grief, and can struggle to recover and find meaning in their lives. A 2018 study on visual art and grief (Rachel Weiskittle and colleagues) found that people who are dealing with complicated grief may benefit from art creation in two important ways: by creating a continuous bond with their loved one, and by developing the ability to find new goals and purpose. When it comes to continuous bonds, the bereaved can create art that accepts the reality of death while also communicating the narrative of their loved one’s life.

Different Strokes

Artists can use various mediums to represent their loved ones, including collages, paintings and drawings. Artistic ability is not a prerequisite in reaping the benefits of artistic creation. Those wishing to capture a person’s eye shape and expression in a figurative work, for instance, are sometimes asked to complete a simple online tutorial on eyes and other parts of the face. Within a few lessons, budding artists can hone their skills in representing light, perspective and proportion. Those who prefer abstract works, meanwhile, can express features, experiences and emotions through the symbolic use of colour and texture.

Art Heals Children, Teens And Adults

Many studies have been carried out on specific groups to understand the extent to which art creation and therapy can be useful during times of grief. Rachel Weiskittle’s study, for instance, showed the benefits in art therapy for adults. Jordyn Staar (in a Master of the Arts thesis on Art Therapy and Counselling) found that art bestowed several benefits on grieving adolescents. Studies on children have also shown art to be a particularly powerful tool for young people. As children often lack life experience when it comes to grief, art is an alternative tool to communicate with their therapist and find meaning from their pain and loss.

Yoga And Art Therapy Go Hand In Hand

Yoga is an ideal practice to undertake in conjunction with art therapy, it can reduce stress levels and help to combat depression – all of which can wrest from your motivation to create art or even attend art therapy sessions. Yoga is a pathway to self-reflection through breath work, meditation, and the opening up of the energetic body. Those wishing to hone their artistic expressivity through yoga could consider ending their usual practice in savasana or a seated meditation, before creating a mandala or another drawing or painting, taking time to reflect afterwards on the meaning of their work.

About the Author

A former art teacher turned writer – Ali has seen the ways art can provide solace in times of grief. Through her writing and research, she’s now penning articles on these topics and, in her free time, works with a number of mental health charities. You’ll be able to find her on social media very soon!

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