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.