“When There Are No Words”

Categories: Bereavement

written by Anna Hicken and Hannah Tosch, Bereavement Counselors at Transitions GriefCare

Grief is a natural and normal response to loss. It can be a complex and challenging experience, and there is no one right way to grieve. Sometimes finding words to process or understand the depth of grief we experience after losing a loved one can feel impossible and overwhelming. In the face of such loss, art can be a conduit for safe exploration, expression, and understanding in grief.


Here are some specific ways art-making can facilitate healing:

  • Art as a Container: Art can be seen as a container for our emotions, thoughts, and experiences. When we create art, we are essentially giving form to our inner world. This can be a very therapeutic process, as it allows us to express ourselves in a safe and creative way. In the context of grief, art can be a particularly powerful container. When we lose someone we love, we often feel a range of intense emotions that can be difficult to express out loud to other people. Through the use of images, color, metaphors, and symbols, art can provide a safer and more accessible mode of expression.
  • Art as Insight: Art can be a helpful tool for gaining insight into our grief. When we express our thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a creative way, this can help us to gain a better understanding of our grief. For example, if we are feeling angry, we might create a painting that expresses that anger. Or, if we are feeling sad, we might write a poem that expresses that sadness. By creating art, we are able to externalize our emotions and to see them in a new way. Perhaps we will learn something about our grief that we didn’t realize.
  • Art as Connection: Grief can be incredibly lonely and isolating, even in the presence of other grievers. No one in the world can completely understand your unique loss. Sometimes, it is even hard to understand our own grief. However, when we share our emotions via art, we allow others to connect to our felt experience of loss. The details of our stories may not be the same, but our pain is universal. Art helps us to cross the barrier of words and find community and connection with other grievers. Art can also be used to foster connection with the deceased. Making art about the person who died or incorporating their belongings into your artwork or engaging in an artistic practice that they enjoyed can be extremely powerful for grievers.
  • Art as Hope: Art can be a way to find hope in the midst of pain. It allows us to connect to our inner strength and gives us some control in situations where we have little. When we create art, we are essentially saying that we are still here, we are still living and breathing, and we are still finding ways to express ourselves. The simple act of engaging our creativity can help us to find strength and resilience in the midst of our grief.

Art can be a powerful tool for coping with grief. It can help us express our emotions, make sense of our loss, find meaning in our grief, and connect with others who have experienced similar losses. There are many different art forms that you can explore. And remember, you don’t have to be a good artist to use art as a way to cope with grief. The most important thing is to express yourself in a way that feels meaningful to you.

If this sounds like something that would be helpful but you aren’t sure where to start, we’d love to have you join us at one of the Expressive Arts Groups offered through Transitions GriefCare. You can learn more by calling 919-719-7199.

*All of our Expressive Arts Grief Groups (including supplies) are offered free of charge to the local community. If you’d like to support this mission, please consider donating supplies via our Amazon Wishlist.

adult grief, bereavement, end of life, expressive art, grief, grief and loss, grief resources, healing, transitions lifecare
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