Lynne Ann DeSpelder: Healing Through Art

A leader in the field of grief and loss, Dr. Lynne Ann DeSpelder talks with Dr. Heidi Horsley about using art to help heal from grief. Dr. DeSpelder is also a professor of psychology, counselor, and author of The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying (now in its eighth edition). When someone dies, think about what you used to do before—and what you do now. Often, what you did was pretty normal. Dr. DeSpelder recalls a young mother who lost her baby. Before Justin’s death, she used to make clay artwork and sell it at a boutique. Dr. DeSpelder told her to go back to making sculptures, and she did, naming them “Anguish of Loss.”

This was the catalyst on this young mother’s journey. For Julie, she had to put her artist aside to let the grieving mother work with the sculptures. You must give in to the grieving part of you, and find a way to create. If you write music, it’s not about the technical skills you can bring to it. It’s about what comes out. Art is cathartic, no matter what the medium.

Creativity for Grief

Whether it’s listening to music, journaling, drawing, or painting, using art however feels right to you can be a great resource for healing. Some people create boxes brimming with memory pieces. They can contain treasures from the relationship. Stones, notes, cards, and more are often included. You don’t have to be “an artist” in order to benefit from art therapy. You simply need to allow yourself to create.

Art is a natural way to heal. You don’t have to be a writer or a musician, but you do need to find a voice for your grief. It’s not always your mouth.


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