Using Art Cards for Emotional Management in Grief

Today I’m going to share an art therapy technique I was exploring that would work well for grief, managing overwhelming emotions, and as a daily self-care check-in.  That technique is what I’m calling Emotional Touchstones, using art cards for emotional management in grief and overwhelm. The other day I created an art piece to use as my visual focal point for the day. This technique uses art cards as an emotional touchstone for managing intense or overwhelming emotions during grief. It could help with controlling emotions after a loss, or managing overwhelm, or other intense emotional needs.  The art itself consisted of a playing card (sometimes known as Artist Trading Cards or ATC’s), that I had collaged and added the word, “supported” on it.  I knew I wanted to do some sort of meditative art-making to check in with myself, help myself with affirmations on supportive a positive mood, and committing to doing some art as an act of self-care.

Discover as You Go – Intuitive Art for Emotional Wellbeing

With an intuitive art-making process, you don’t have to plan out what you’re making when you first start. This is one of the reasons I utilize collage often, especially when I’m just trying to take care of my emotional wellbeing. I limit myself to one or 2 magazines, and then figure out how to make an image that speaks to me from a limited selection, which can also help with managing intense emotions through art. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting distracted in the sea of options. I approach the process with an attitude of openness and curiosity. I seek to discover what will “ring true” inside me as I see words and images. Often I am surprised by the outcome.


Daily Emotional Check-In – Art Therapy Self-Care

Once I’ve created the image, I keep it with me to remind myself of how I want to feel. At the end of the day, sometime after dinner, I ask myself, what did this card have to tell me about my mood, my process, or my day? Often I find that I wasn’t consciously aligned with the theme of the card and in fact, if I had been, my day would have gone smoother. Wisdom abounds, especially when managing overwhelming emotions during grief or after a loss.  You have to dive into those emotions to be able to process them and therefore feel better.

What You Need:

Another aspect of these types of art practices is that you don’t need fancy materials. I have been using playing cards for this series because I had a deck lying around for an art project I abandoned. I could have just as easily used scraps from junk mail for the backing for this project, which can be helpful in “managing emotions through art materials.” So pens, pencils, scissors, a glue stick, and some images from magazines, or junk mail will do. Highlighters work too! Art-making doesn’t have to be expensive.

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle – Finding Healing in Repurposing Objects

Repurposing materials and found objects can also be a way to recycle if that would make your soul sing too. The possibilities are truly endless,  for managing emotions through art materials or finding healing in repurposing objects. Found an interesting bottle cap or leaf? Throw it on there! Lint, string, dried rice or beans, a little tin foil, where can you find art out of your surroundings?

Emotional Touchstones

The definition of a touchstone is as follows:

  • A piece of fine-grained dark schist or jasper formerly used for testing alloys of gold by observing the color of the mark which they made on it.
  • A standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized.

Likewise, to use a small piece of art as a touchstone is a reminder of your intention for the day. Every time you look at it, remind yourself to go back to how the image makes you feel or how you’ve decided you want to feel, which can be helpful in controlling emotions after a loss. As you feel you’ve drifted a bit from that, move on back to your center.

Final Thoughts

While I am using playing cards in my own practice right now, I may not use this technique with clients.  Intuitive art-making utilizes a synergy between client and art therapist.  I hope you enjoyed exploring this one art therapy technique of using art cards for emotional management for grief, loss, or otherwise.
 I try to attune to my client’s needs, proclivities, and the themes of images arising from their lives and from their dreams.  Carl Jung stated that each therapy must be individualized for each case, for each client.  Similarly, intuitive art-making must uniquely suit each individual art maker. Your path through grief, with all its emotions and lessons is just as unique.
Starting this journey is just a quick call away.  Reach out if you’d like to know more.