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Using art to overcome grief

Posted at 9:28 PM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 08:13:35-04

BOISE, Idaho — At some point in everyone's life, they experience grief. Losing a loved one can be painful, unbearable, and difficult to cope with.

Now, Danica Thurber is helping people use art as a tool to express and heal from the pain of grief. It's called Project Grief.

"When I meet someone I'm like, 'Yay!', and then I'm like, I'm so sorry you're in this club," said Thurber. "It's a club nobody wants to join."

After the sudden death of her dad when she was 12 years old, Danica suffered emotionally and mentally from the pain of losing him. She tried to bury her overwhelming feelings of grief, but eight years after her dad's passing, she hit her breaking point.

That's when Project Grief was launched. Her goal is to transform someone from a grief victim to a grief artist.

"A grief victim is someone who is living life through black and grays on a paint palette. It's a very dark place to live," said Thurber. "A grief artist has the full spectrum to work with, the greens, reds, yellows and even black, but it's just something that lets you externalize what you're feeling on the inside."

Project Grief is an online, self-paced program. Courses include Coloring for Self-Care, Pencil Portrait Memorial, and Master Your Grief, which is for long term healing.

It includes a 10-step art project that you can complete in a week or in a year. Thurber meets you when you're ready.

“Telling your story or writing your story or talking about it in therapy is very helpful in processing, but grief is a full-body experience," said Project Grief participant Sara Cobb. "That means we need to actually use our bodies to release that grief and to work through those symptoms, and I think art is a great way to do that.”

Sara struggled with the effects of grief after the sudden death of her brother and his fiance so she enrolled in all of Project Grief's courses.

Grief and art are parallel to each other. What you learn while painting transfers to processing grief, something Sara learned while she was painting.

"Grief art, for me, is a way I can express my grief when I don’t have the right words. It lets me sit in my emotions and feel them and think about them in a way that I cant when I am trying to come up with the right words,” said Cobb.

Their main message is that art gives you a vocabulary to express emotions physically.

“When we allow ourselves to use the pain and the things that we have gone through as raw materials on the canvas of our life, we can really create something beautiful, but first we have to go through the creation,” said Thurber.

Both Thurber and Cobb say using art as a therapeutic tool doesn't belong to just artists, it's something anyone can do.

"The process is more important than the product," said Cobb.

“If it looks ugly, then good job, you just expressed what grief looks like,” said Thurber.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a tremendous loss and want help through Project Grief, click on this link.