Working through grief…

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Grief…….

most of us have been touched by grief in some way.

During my teens I lost a lot of people who were very important to me. The latent grief from this period of my life, followed me into marriage, and shrouded me like a mist until I didn’t know what it was like not to be without grief. Before I gave birth to my first child I knew I needed to work through the acceptance process for all the people I had lost, I was ready. This was about 10 years after the first loss and about 4 years after the latest loss. I had to let go of 16 precious people I had lost in that time period, including a boyfriend. It was time. I had really gone through all the stages of grief in varying timelines and stages for each of the losses I had gone through.

There are stages of grief:

Denial and Isolation – this is usually a temporary response that buffers us through the first wave of pain at impending or sudden loss.

Anger – the strength of emotions we begin to experience once denial begins to recede can be overwhelming and often we express this as anger. Anger can be directed at friends, family, the loved one who is dying/has died, the doctor who delivered the news, anyone really.

Bargaining – all the If Only’s

If Only we had seen the doctor earlier

If Only we had noticed something was wrong

If Only we had another doctors opinion

It’s also a time we may bargain with God or whomever we relate to if religious. We may do this even if we are not.

Depression – the worry and anxiety over what our life will look like now…..how we will cope, what purpose do we have, how do we go on?

There is the natural depression and an inner depression. The natural is usually resolved by the reassurance and help from those around us.  The inner depression is where we privately adjust to the loss in our lives and thoughts, it is a place where some of us become stuck and find it difficult to move on from. This is particularly common in cases of sudden death and trauma that have lasting actions like court cases, inquiries, investigations. The retelling of the story and the reliving of the first stages of grief can set up a cycle from which we cannot get off.

Acceptance – the ability to accept and relinquish the grief from our life. There is no set time for grief and the grieving process, everyone grieves in their own time and in their own way. Acceptance is also not a happy time. It is a time of letting go and moving forward.

It is important to note that not everyone grieves in this way or this order, Grief is intensely personal and depending on our personality and our circumstances can outwork in our bodies and emotions differently. Certainly, we may not grieve in the way that society, or our friends or our family expect. It is in these times that we may struggle even more with our grief and the grieving process.

For more information on grief and loss click here:

There are a number of ways that art therapy can help people experiencing grief and loss.

  • a grief journal – a discovery of a companion to walk through your grief journey with you and share all that entails in a completely understanding way. Use this technique to write, draw, paint, collage and all the thoughts, feelings, actions, memories, letters you wish you could write to walk through that journey and begin to place the grief in small parts outside of your body.
  • a grief box – a large box that has as many objects, letters and things that represent the person being grieved for. Things can be added to the box, the box can be opened, and things can be taken out of the box and gradually discarded. The process begins to work out when there is a pattern of not needing to look in the box and touch or smell items as often, to be not as mindful of the box and gradually separate from the box and the grief it contains.
  • an exploration of memory created through different media that reflect different aspects of the person being mourned and that relationship. this could be a scrapbook, a journal, a DVD, a body of music. Focusing on the joy in those memories can be a trigger to begin the mourning process and phase into acceptance.

The above are but a few examples of different types of therapies I’ve used to help people find peace within the context of mourning.

If you know someone who may be helped in their grief or you feel the need to talk to someone I encourage you to call 13 11 14 the LifeLine contact line.

Peta Thompson HH Dip (A.Th.). is a qualified Art Therapist and is currently studying a Bach Social Science (Psychology) at Swinburne University. Her opinions and information here have been acquired through the applied study of art therapy in the context of grief therapy as a complimentary therapy. Peta works in association with Logan Women’s Health and Wellbeing Centre Inc, so that a cross therapy supported treatment plan can be adopted. She is fully qualified and insured as an art therapist and works with qualified counsellors to improve the health and wellbeing of all who seek help at the centre.

If you feel that this article has triggered a response and wish to seek further help you should contact your doctor. In Australia, there are assessments that can be undertaken with your doctor to indicate whether you need to access up to 10 sessions of counselling or pyschotherapy. It is wise to use the healthcare system in conjunction with complementary therapies.

If you are from a country outside of Australia please seek medical assistance from your local doctor and discuss ongoing treatment and referrals with your doctor.

 

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Live Well Logan – Brave art therapy workshop

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Live Well Logan – Brave art therapy workshop

I am conducting a number of Brave Women Art therapy mixed media workshops as a part of the Logan Live Well program.

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There are still some spaces available for the 11 July workshop. Don’t delay this is a great opportunity to explore some theme of bravery in our everyday lives and create a mixed media canvas to take home like my example below:

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cheers

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Art therapy and depression

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I regularly hear this expressed in various ways from my clients after experiencing the wonderful healing journey that is experienced through art and art therapy.

Depression is often triggered by trauma, significant life changes, divorce or relationship troubles, death of a loved one, losing a job, failing at something we have strived to succeed at. These are but a few reasons, and then there are the people that suffer with depression that cannot pinpoint an event or something that triggered it but seem to one day or over a period of time lose energy, lose the will to interact with family and friends, or to attend activities and hobbies that we formerly enjoyed.

Art therapy with a qualified practitioner, allows us to explore that which we normally keep hidden, or have difficulty expressing with language. It’s interesting that simply starting a drawing or doodle can trigger emotions and thoughts that are new and previously unexplored in the therapy setting or in our daily lives.

Often my clients will be happily painting or drawing away in one of my workshops and suddenly they will see something in their creation that triggers an emotion or thought that makes them sit back and take pause.

At this point it is up to the art therapist to determine the correct mode of engagement with the client and there are various ways that this can occur.

Time and time again I see my clients express that the process of art creation in some way frees them from their thoughts and this then can become quite addictive! This is because the neural pathways in our brain are experiencing pleasure at the process of creation and this so desired when we grapple with depression.

So I encourage you, that if you are feeling any of the symptoms of depression to start to explore the activity of creating arts and crafts, and make sure that you speak to a professional about the depression if you have not already done so.

 

The Feelings Journal – Affirmations

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The feelings journal is not just about the days when we feel sad, overwhelmed or angry. We feel great emotions as well and the therapeutic tool of the feelings journal allows a us to establish a pattern of our emotional state over a period of time. If we never document when we feel great then this can give a skewed picture of our emotional health to our health practitioners.

 

Here is a page where I felt warm and happy with a note from a friend.

I set these videos to music only with no instruction so that you can embark on your own feelings journal session to soothing music and not be distracted by me talking.

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Considering Our Place in theWorld

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I often wonder about the concept of 6 degrees of separation or how to guide my clients to an understanding of their worth to the world when often they don’t think that they have any worth.

I often find that group therapy sessions and courses help clients to feel validated and valuable as the other participants of the group encourage and build up the individual at different points. It is a human trait that we see good in others before we see good in ourselves so group therapy sessions offer a collective encouragement that individual sessions cannot. This collective agreement of what is good in another is one of the most positive aspects of group art therapy courses I run.

The ripple effect. That small things impact the lives of those around us, often without us realising it. I did a class with Lifebook 2016 under the guidance of Tamara Laporte who, is not a qualified art therapist but essentially practices art therapy to a large group of followers all around the world. She talked about the concept of the ripple effect, you not knowing what small acts, however insignificant, and the effect that they had in the worlds order. I very thought provoking exercise and one well worth undertaking to help delve into the portions of our pysch that are associated with low self esteem and negative self talk.

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Through our art we make the unconscious conscious

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It’s an interesting thought isn’t it?

When we are creative we access a different part of our brain. It is through this neural pathway that we can easily access our unconscious mind. (you know, the reason you end up at home instead of the post office when you are out driving for example, this is the unconscious controlling your actions).

How does this work in an art therapy context? Well, through directed art creation, that is targeted to achieve outcomes agreed to in our first session, you are free to create and explore those areas that sometimes are unknown, buried deep within our mind and also to articulate without the need for words, how you are feeling or how you see yourself.

I have seen it time and time again in sessions and online classes where my clients and students are painting away and then something is triggered in their mind and emotions that they weren’t expecting in any way. It’s at this time that your art therapist can help you to unravel what’s been triggered with further pyschotherapy activites and discussion.

I’ts always good to be in touch with our emotions. Art therapy is a vehicle that can help you to do that in a safe and non confrontation way where you don’t need to try and find the right words before exploring.

Cheers Peta

 

Welcome to Peta Thompson Art Therapy!

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10847385_946802032011810_1313565051331528171_oI am excited to create this space as a space dedicated to practical art therapy resources and links and also a place where you can see workshops I am holding in the Logan Area in Qld, Australia.

I have a bunch of workshops planned in 2016 at a number of venues, most still to be announced but I’m very happy with the planning for the workshops thus far.

Currently I am collaborating with the Logan Womens Health and Well-being centre in Springwood, Qld and this is an exciting place for all women to access some very cost friendly art therapy workshops. Look on the events pages for details of my upcoming workshops and courses being run through Logan Womens.

If you need to want to contact me to plan private art therapy sessions and/or private workshops you can go to the Contact me page and I will answer your enquiries from there.