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Grief Care: How Animals, Art, and Music Can Help

Published: July 15, 2019

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The overwhelming emotions that often accompany loss might leave you feeling helpless. Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, highly respected author, educator, and grief counselor, says, “I sometimes call the necessary sadness of grief ‘sitting in your wound.’ When you sit in the wound of your grief, you surrender to it . . . You shut the world out for a time so that, eventually, you have created space to let the world back in.” It is important to seek support as needed when you experience the death of a loved one. Besides counselors and other medical professionals who have the knowledge and ability to assist grieving individuals, funeral home staff generally provide many ongoing grief support opportunities. But it can also be helpful to find additional, sensitive ways to confront the feelings of sadness and sorrow caused by loss. There are many complementary and alternative therapies that can be beneficial for those journeying through grief, and listed below are three common options.

 

Animal-Assisted Therapy

You may have seen a registered therapy dog wearing a vest at a school or hospital before, but they are now becoming a more frequent sight in funeral homes as well. Spending time with animals can actually help improve the moods of those struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, and even grief. Sometimes called pet therapy, animal-assisted activities are a casual, comforting way to bring calmness and joy to individuals who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one.

More information from the Animal Assisted Intervention International website: https://aai-int.org/what-we-do/

Art Therapy

A benefit of art therapy is that individuals can uncover and convey emotions through the process of creating. Art often provides a form of escape for people, which might help allow those who are grieving to feel a sense of peace, and it also encourages appreciation and enjoyment when life might otherwise feel overwhelming. While art therapy is a beneficial approach for anyone journeying through grief, it can be particularly useful for children and for those who have limited verbal communication ability.

More information from the American Art Therapy Association website: https://arttherapy.org/about-art-therapy/

Music Therapy

Music therapy can help individuals improve overall health and well-being in a variety of ways. A common myth is that only those with musical ability can take part in music therapy; however, no experience is necessary. Participants may be asked to do a variety of music-related activities, such as moving to the rhythm, writing lyrics, or practicing receptive listening, as part of a therapeutic intervention. Similar to art therapy, music therapy helps create an awareness of emotions and offers a way to express feelings, both of which are vital parts of the healing process for those who are grieving.

More information from the American Music Therapy Association website: https://www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/

If you are interested in one of these sources of grief support, talk to your doctor for more information and for a qualified therapist recommendation or program referral.

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