There are many different ways to process grief. While there are plenty of conventional and traditional coping mechanisms, there is no one “right” way, and you can use whatever feels right for you and your journey.
Whether you consider yourself a particularly “creative” person or not, you may find that processing your grief through a creative outlet is what feels right and works best for you.
Studies have shown that visual and physical art can help you make sense of the loss, preserve your loved one’s memory, and experience a sense of release, allowance, and peace around your grief.
To help get you started, we’ve put some to explore expressing your grief creatively. Many of these can be applied to different types of losses, like losing a place you used to live, a job, a pet, or the future you had planned.
Like most of the suggestions on this list, you don’t have to know what to do or how to do it to benefit from the activity. Dancing is a perfect example of this.
It can be a beautiful way to express feelings that are hard to put into words- no matter what it looks like in practice. That alone is reason enough to give it a try!
Plus, moving our bodies and exerting energy has been proven to help level out feelings and keep the fight/flight response from taking over. That’s why dancing can simultaneously lift our spirits and lower our anxiety, which is no small task when going through grief.
Painting through grief can be a helpful choice for almost anyone, whether it’s the comfort of slow, intentional, careful work, taking the rage and splatter approach, or wishing to simply make something that speaks to you.
You can express your grief through the images you create—like a portrait of your loved one—or purely through the process of painting.
Like painting, expressing your grief through music may be something you’re pulled to try or revisit if it’s been a while since you tinkered with that bass or keyboard.
You might write a tribute to your loved one or a story about your loss. Maybe you can take all your anger out on some drums or learn to cover your loved one’s favorite songs in their honor.
If you’re feeling it, try creating an impromptu song with gadgets or everyday items you can find around your home. It might take a little time to get into the flow, but allowing your creative energy to fly can be a great way to move through grief.
Take a walk down memory lane with a purpose. You can tell the story of your loved one’s life, revisit your most cherished moments, or preserve your favorite pictures of you with them.
This is a good option even for people who don’t think of themselves as “creative,” you can do as little or as much as you want. Consider including things other than family photos like notes, old cards, ticket stubs, playbills, pieces of their own art, etc.
A scrapbook can also be helpful in letting go of some of your loved one’s belongings. If there are things you’re having a hard time saying goodbye to but can’t keep, take pictures of them and add them to your scrapbook.
Create a visual representation of your loved one with a collage!
This can be a great option if you don’t have access to many photos of them, if it’s too painful right now to look at photos, or if you’re grieving something more abstract.
If you have difficulty putting your feelings into words but you want to get those feelings out onto paper, a collage can also be a lovely alternative to traditional journaling or scrapbooking.
If you find expressing yourself through writing natural, you might try a few different ways of grieving through writing.
You can write letters to your loved one, or you can journal out big, complicated feelings without fear of judgment. This can be just for you. No one else has to see it.
If you find yourself staring at a blank piece of paper or a digital document, start by telling your loved one how you’re feeling, what you miss about them, or what you wish had been different between you.
Simply start writing anything and let it flow without overthinking it- allow the words to come as they want to. You may be surprised by the twists and turns it takes, alongside a sense of much-needed release.
If slow, methodical work is your thing, or you’d like to have something to show for your time spent, give quilting a try!
You could try making a memorial quilt by using old t-shirts of the person you’re commemorating. It can be so hard to let go of our loved one’s clothing. So, turning their clothes into a blanket can help hold them close or even feel held by them, too.
If this isn’t for you, consider buying fabric that represents different aspects of your loved one’s personality, incorporate their favorite colors, and piece it all together like the fabric version of a collage.
There are so many different things you can make with fiber art, and many of them can be used as comfort objects—like a scarf, blanket, or stuffed animal.
The repetitive nature of knitting and crocheting can also be meditative and soothing for some. If you’re feeling foggy or having difficulty concentrating, stick to simple patterns and basic stitches while still being able to express your grief creatively.
You are not limited to these options; any seemingly creative thing that you want to do and that helps you on your path to healing is valid. You can try a few different things and find what feels right to you. Just remember that it’s not about the product of your creativity; it’s about the process.
Photo credit: Charan Sai, via Pexels