How Can Art Help People Overcome The Loss Of A Loved One?

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When grief is overwhelming and constant, it can seem like things will never get better. This type of grief, called complicated grief, can affect between 10% and 20% of people who have lost a loved one. Anyone who is struggling to find meaning in their lives and who is plagued by thoughts of their loss should seek professional help. There are various approaches used successfully to help people move forward in this case – including cognitive behavioral therapy, complicated grief therapy (which can include keeping a grief diary, recalling events relating to the loss, and exploring things that can give life joy again), and art therapy. Simply creating art in tough times can be healing because art helps reduce stress levels and promotes better psychological health.

The Benefits Of Visual Art Modalities For The Bereaved

Research published in 2017 in the Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal found that the visual arts can play an important role in recovery from a painful loss. Scientists found that visual art creation was linked to positive changes, including: feeling a continuous bond with the person lost, discovering your ability to develop new goals, or constructing a sense of self that incorporates the significance of your experience. They also found evidence to support the use of art in treating negative grief symptoms such as depression and anxiety, general distress, and functional impairment. 

Visual Arts Are Accessible To All

One of the benefits of using visual arts within the context of bereavement therapy is its accessibility to people of all ages, backgrounds, and artistic abilities. As found in a 2016 study published in the journal Art Therapy, even creating beginners’ art can ease distress. The process of drawing flowers like daffodils, poppies, or roses can be immensely healing, especially if the artist takes their pencil and art pad outdoors (since nature is also a powerful stress buster). A beautiful flower or other natural shape can begin with simple curved lines connected by waves, and embellished with petals, dew, and shading. Artists can proceed to draw more complex shapes and even human beings, including themselves and their loved ones during a meaningful moment of their lives together.

Art Therapy For Severe Depression

When depression is severe or complicated, the bereaved can benefit from experiencing art therapy – as found in a University of Gothenburg study. The researchers found that people with severe or moderately severe depression who attended 10 art therapy sessions, comprising relaxation exercises and crayon and watercolor work, showed significant improvements in their symptoms. They also understood themselves better, made new discoveries, and improved their self-reflection skills.

 Creativity is currently used as a complementary therapy for serious and complicated grief. Studies have shown that artistic creation, especially under the guidance of an art therapy, can help in stress reduction and meaning-making. Added benefits include greater self-clarity and the chance to make new discoveries about yourself.

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