Grief and Creativity
January 7, 2020
Grief is an unavoidable and natural part of the human experience. We will all lose someone we love at some point, and we will all experience and express our grief in our own unique way. While the lifelong journey of bereavement can feel agonizing and even debilitating at times, it can also be an opportunity for growth and discovery. Incorporating creative activities during our grieving process can be both restorative and inspiring.
Grief and Creativity Around the World
Some of our most precious cultural treasures would never have been constructed had it not been for grief. The Egyptian pyramids at Giza,
dating back over 4,000 years, were burial mounds. Famous tragedies written by Homer and Shakespeare dive deeply into the concept of grief. Renowned painters and sculptors like Vincent van Gogh and Picasso frequently explored themes of death and grief in their work. And hundreds of songs across all genres deal with heartbreak, loss, and death.
It’s undeniable that mourning has led to brilliant expressions of creativity. But how can we as individuals harness our own creative instincts to aid and guide us through our own grieving?
The Power of Creativity
“I’m not very good at drawing.” “I can’t carry a tune.” “I’m not much of a writer.”
Being creative allows us to express our emotions in a healthy way, while simultaneously creating something beautiful, such as a painting, a photograph, or a song. Dr. Shelley Carson's book, “Your Creative Brain, Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life,” explains that the mere expression of emotion in artistic form can be beneficial for managing our sorrow. “The world can look grey through grief.” Taking the time to pursue a creative activity can help add some shine back into the world. Creativity can even boost our self-esteem and help us focus on the things for which we are grateful.
We hear these rationalizations all the time and convince ourselves that we are not creative. But comparing ourselves to expert artists is detrimental to unlocking our potential. We need not be professionals in order to be creative. Here are some practical and simple creative outlets you may consider to accompany you through your grief.
Dance & Yoga
Movement can be a beneficial way to move through your bereavement process. Dancing allows us to express and release our suffering in a compassionate and empowering way, while connecting to the joy of the music. Connecting the breath to the mind and body through yoga can be an exceptional technique to bring more love and gratitude into your life after experiencing a loss.
Whether you take a painting class or simply sketch with colored pencils in the comfort of your own home, art can be a powerful tool to outwardly express any complicated internal emotions. Creating art can also help us create meaning and memorialize our loved one in a physical way.
Making music can be a wonderful way to reduce stress while exploring our grief. Listening to music or participating in music making can significantly enhance our mood. And there’s no need to be a trained musician; you can try out the bongos, since drumming is known to be a powerful mood regulator.
Creating writing can offer a path through grief, a way to render our emotions into words. The stories, poems, biographies, or plays that we create can not only help us heal, but can also offer comfort to our readers. Writing can be an excellent way to memorialize our loved one who has died by explaining how their life touched yours.
Once you choose a creative expression (or two or three) that you enjoy, try to create a regular practice to get the most benefits. Taking just 20 minutes a day to be creative for three or four times a week can lead to healing, joy, and gratitude.