For many people, expressing and communicating emotions following a traumatic experience can be very difficult. The full body experience may be difficult to process of verbalize. This is where art can come in.
Art can allow us to shed light on our experience that we may not get otherwise. Creating art that is related to what you’re grieving or completely unrelated can provide a helpful method of expressing emotions. By putting your mind to use creatively, you can begin to process emotions that may be stored away or that you were unable to recognize before.
Making art can be a form of self-expression and healing. Not only this, but it is a good way to visually communicate thoughts when it is too painful to put into words. Using your imagination allows feelings to come to the surface and gives us the permission to examine all that is happening. It is simply another method to express your deepest emotions without having to actually speak it.
It may be difficult to express your feelings in word sometimes because of the left-brain’s limitations of vocabulary. By using imagery, you don’t have to find the right words to explain something. Art can also be something that reinforces the resiliency in yourself. By creating something beautiful you may find hope amidst the trauma you are dealing with. The act of creating can help reaffirm your sense of empowerment, capabilities and freedom.
You do not have to be an “artist” to use art as a form of healing for both adults and children. The best thing about art is that there are no rules to follow, and anyone can do it. The trick is to create from your soul. It is not so much the final artwork that matters, but rather the creative process behind it and the actual act of creating.
There are many therapists that specialize specifically in art therapy, and can help guide you in the process. If this is something that interests you, try to find one in your area.
However, you don’t necessarily need a specialist to make art beneficial. You can really just sit down and draw, or paint, or even take photographs. For some people this act is very relaxing and enjoyable.
If you want to try some activities that many art therapists use, you can try visualizing emotions you may be feeling, such as anger or fear, and try closing your eyes to picture this. Whatever shapes, colors, or imagery come to mind, put it down on the paper.
Mandalas are also a good form of art therapy. Mandala translates to “healing circle” and is an intricate or simple design of colorful shapes with a center. Mandalas are sometimes used to help people meditate, but the actual process of coloring mandalas provides a comforting rhythmic activity. Doing this can be relaxing and releases stress. As you color in the mandala, the shapes and colors will reflect your emotions as you are creating it. Like other art, it is not about the final piece of art, but rather the journey of making it.
It may also be helpful to try making some form of art as a memorial to honor someone or something you've lost.