7 Grief Art Activities to Help You Process Your Feelings

Grief and art are all about the process, so they go hand-in-hand. These ideas might help you work through difficult emotions and find healing.

Published July 27, 2023
woman painting

Experiencing loss can be deeply emotional, and the grief that comes from a loss can be overwhelming. For some, it can feel like a roadblock keeping you from moving forward. But addressing your grief head-on isn't always an option.

One powerful way to deal with it is through a unique side door: grief art. You can use art projects to help you process your grief in a constructive and creative way, and here are some of our favorite ways to do so.

Grief Art Ideas to Spark a Little Healing

Art is such a therapeutic activity because it helps you tap into your deep emotional reservoirs. And as you work through the process of creating that art, you simultaneously work through the emotions that are elicited throughout. Although more research is needed, art as a tool for coping with bereavement has also been associated with positive changes.

It can be far less intimidating to approach grief laterally instead of head-on, and art is a great medium for you to do so. Talk to the page, speak it into the clay, and let it out in your dance moves. Art is there as a resource, and all you have to do is sit down and start.

1. Try Stream of Consciousness Poetry

Steam of consciousness poetry is a style of poetry that's friendly for even the most amateur poets. Basically, you sit down and start writing out exactly what you're thinking. Allow the thoughts, however disjointed they are, to come out onto the page. Add line breaks, write some words in huge font and others in tiny ones, or circle your words on the page into a pattern.

By letting your brain bounce from thought to thought, you're giving your body and mind the chance to enter whatever closed door you've purposefully kept locked.

2. Create a Grief Scrapbook

woman creating a scrapbook

Grief scrapbooks might sound strange to someone who's not grieving, but curating a book to represent the big and small moments in your process can make everything more digestible. You can't swallow down the grief connected to a loss in a day or two, but taking a moment to dedicate half a page of a scrapbook to a day or a week lets you have something to center you while you work through those difficult emotions.

3. Make a Self-Portrait Series Documenting Your Healing

You can also use photography as a means of grieving through art. You've probably seen slideshows of people taking one picture every day for a year, or one picture on the first day of school every year, and you can do the same thing for your healing process.

Grab a camera or your phone and take a self-portrait in a mirror every day for the next few months. After you have dozens of pictures, you can collate them into a collage. And the real benefit of having these pictures is getting to see marked visual change in your healing process. You'll look happier six months down the road than you did six days from the event. After all, for some people, seeing really is believing.

4. Custom Draw a Commemorative Tattoo

person sketching

If you want something a little bit more permanently expressive of the time you're going through, think about creating a tattoo concept to represent your grief. If you've got the drawing skills, you can customize your own design or you can work with a tattoo artist to bring your concept to life.

5. Make a Shadow Box With Mementoes

There are an infinite number of possibilities when you're making a shadow box. Create whatever miniature scene strikes your fancy. It doesn't have to pretty, and it doesn't have to make sense. Make a representation for your inner grief or replicate a beautiful memory you have of a person you lost. Once you're finished, you'll have a lovely token to remember both the good and the bad.

6. Craft a Quilt Out of a Loved One's Clothes

Letting go doesn't have to mean giving away everything your loved one ever owned. But to soften the blow that having so many reminders around can bring, try to convert them into something new. Take some of their old favorite clothes and cut them up into shapes for a quilt. Matching the pieces, picking out the patterns, and sewing the thing together will take time, and you can use that time to sit in all the complicated feelings of grief.

7. Experiment With Different Mediums in an Abstract Piece

person painting

Abstract expressionism was a significant art movement in the 1940s and 1950s that emulated a lot of the sentiments behind stream-of-consciousness writing. Essentially, you're unbound by convention and strict planning when making a piece of art. Take inspiration from artists like Rothko and Kooning and tap into your emotional instincts with different mediums.

Try watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, or pastels and spontaneously create something on the canvas. Be fully present in the moment and let your state of mind inform your movements.

It's All About the Process

Whether you're working through grief or creating art, it's all about the process. For many of us, grief isn't something we can confront face to face, but art can be a tool for us to go to those places and feel those feelings.

It's not about ignoring the grief, it's about drawing it out and experiencing it in a safe, constructive way. Because the more you befriend your grief, the easier it'll be to fully move through it.

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7 Grief Art Activities to Help You Process Your Feelings