How Art "Works"
We all know the feeling of being “in the zone”. Whether we are running, skiing, reading, writing, or meditating, we’ve all felt that sense of being completely in-the-moment before; that feeling of effortless flow. When children make art, they can access that flow really easily, and that’s why art can be such a therapeutic experience. In a state of flow, our heart rate and breathing becomes regular and rhythmic, and our minds and bodies sync, as if in a moving meditation. In this regulated place with sensory materials such as art supplies, we can shift into our bodies and express things that our “thinking” brain might not be able to.
Expressing an emotion or an experience that we have had in a physical form can be an incredibly powerful experience. Giving it shape and size and colour can help us to really "see" it, and from this place we can understand ourselves a little better. Not only that, but this physical form can be witnessed by another person as well, giving us a nonverbal way to communicate what we are going through. When that person is an art therapist, they can be a therapeutic witness that can hold space for difficult feelings, and help us shift them safely.
Each of our grief support gift boxes includes an art activity for this reason. The gift box for preschoolers includes play dough for sensory play and processing; the school-age boxes include art activities for memory-making to help to validate and hold feelings of loss. Our teen gift boxes include either a journal or sketch book for more free-form expression.
We can’t get rid of grief, but we can help young people to see it, feel it, and move it, so that they can breathe a little easier.