Grief counselling can be a big help when you are coping with bereavement, but therapy or talking sessions in an indoor setting may not suit everyone.
Some creative or outdoor activities can help with healing, as a form of alternative grief therapy – or an additional form of support, when you are coping with difficult emotions or struggling with loneliness after loss.
Here are 10 alternative grief therapies that individual practitioners, bereavement support charities and community groups offer around the UK. We have lots of helpful information you can read about traditional forms of grief counselling and how they could help you through bereavement.
Art therapy can help people express emotions that can be difficult to articulate. Group or one-on-one sessions can be a way to literally draw out grief and make sense of complicated feelings and emotions, by putting pen or brush to paper, scrapbooking, colouring or working with clay.
Grief support charities and hospices can offer creative workshops as part of programmes supporting children and adults who are coping with bereavement, or living with a terminal or life-limiting illness.
The British Association of Art Therapists has a useful online search tool for individuals, families and groups seeking an art therapist in their local area.
Picture: Dinh Pham on Unsplash
Quilting can be a wonderful way of keeping memories alive, while having a project to quietly focus on. As an alternative form of grief and loss therapy, it can be centering and healing, while a loved one’s favourite garment can form an intrinsic part of a keepsake to treasure.
Crafter Christable Tingay is behind Patchwork Castle, which provides patterns and tutorials to help you make your own memory quilt or cushion.
Memory bears are also becoming a popular way to make something to treasure from a loved one’s clothes. Sew Lovely Keepsakes has created some adorable make-at-home patterns, including memory bears, elephants, unicorns and bunnies. You may also find a local quilting club or sewing workshop, that offers practical support with your stitching as well as an opportunity for company and conversation.
It can be good to talk, but difficult to know where to begin, especially if you find the idea of a visiting a counsellor in a clinical environment daunting.
“Walking and therapeutic support in the outdoors in nature can be meditative and more grounding,” says Lara Just, who offers outdoor psychotherapy and counselling sessions in North London.
Walking therapy, or walk and talk therapy, with a qualified therapist or social worker in an open outdoor environment, can help alleviate some of the inhibitions that might hold us back from talking in a more formal setting.
You can also literally set your own pace, from a contemplative walk at gentle speed, to an energetic session. Walk and talk therapy can be a helpful way for people who have been bereaved to begin the healing process.
Bereavement support groups and hospices sometimes offer more informal peer-to-peer walking and talking groups, which may be an option if you’d like to connect with other people who are coping with loss.
Picture: Celeste Horrocks on Unsplash
Like many outdoor activities, physical work in the garden can help release feel-good endorphins, while grief gardening projects can provide an opportunity for conversation within a more informal group environment.
In Brighton, Martlets Hospice has been piloting an allotment gardening bereavement therapy project for men, and many hospices recruit volunteer gardeners.
Creating a memory garden can be a personal remembrance project or a community activity. The Royal Horticultural Society has a wealth of helpful information about getting a gardening scheme going, while this list of beautiful remembrance roses may inspire a project in someone’s memory.
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Many people come to yoga, as a way of balancing mind, body and soul. Grief yoga has a focus upon helping relax and release people’s bodies from the physical symptoms that grief can manifest. It also aims to relax the mental tightness that can cause people to hold onto painful grief feelings and to ‘embrace’ deeply held emotions.
Grief yoga is open to people of all ages and abilities, enabling them to go at their own pace. A number of specialist yoga studios around the UK offer grief yoga retreats and classes, with www.localyogaclasses.co.uk a good place to begin your search for a local teacher.
While it’s hard to imagine laughter in your life when you are in the raw stages of grief, laughter therapy may be healing for people coping with bereavement over a longer period of time.
This alternative yoga-type grief therapy is based around the theory that deep belly-laughs have many health benefits, including reducing stress levels and anxiety, generating feel-good endorphins and releasing pent-up emotions, as well as being a way to get aerobic exercise. Laughter yoga sessions are usually held in groups and often outdoors.
People of all ages and abilities can take part in these gentle holistic workshops, which could benefit your emotional and physical wellbeing as you recalibrate your life, when you are coping with loss. Find a group near you at www.laughteryoga.biz.
Some bereavement counsellors suggest ‘journalising’ thoughts as a way of processing emotions– whether that’s a blog, poetry, or even adapting those feelings into fiction or fairy tales.
In the raw stages of grief, a grief journal can be a valuable place to express words of sadness, anger or disbelief. It may also be a space for you to compile lists of practical tasks and personal goals to work through.
Your journal could be a space for you to be creative and convey your thoughts and memories in poetry or fiction, or even write letters to the loved one you miss.
Writers College has a list of local writing circles around the UK. Could your experiences form the basis of a blog? As these inspirational grief blogs show, sharing your journey could be a comfort for someone else who has lost a loved one, or is struggling with their own grief.
Singing in a group is thought to be good for your wellbeing, with physical benefits through improved breathing and the release of feel-good endorphins having a positive impact upon your emotions and stress levels.
Many community choirs and singing projects are begun with mental or physical wellbeing in mind, bringing people together for emotionally uplifting sessions in song, regardless of ability. As most will tell you, you don’t need be able to sing, to sing!
Loneliness can be a very difficult part of grief and many people find new purpose in social groups for bereaved people, such as community choirs – as well as pleasure in the physical and emotional release of raising their voices to the rafters.
Find a community choir near where you live, at communitychoirsuk.com.
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Equine facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) supports people who find it difficult to open up about their emotional experiences to gradually share how they are feeling in an environment that helps build their confidence and self-esteem.
It combines talking – and being listened to – whilst also focusing on caring for an animal and building trust in that relationship and faith in your own abilities.
This form of active psychotherapy is suitable for people of many ages and abilities – supporting them through stressful circumstances, including mental health conditions, overcoming addiction and traumatic loss.
Equine therapy– also known as hippotherapy – may take the form of one-on-one sessions, or as part of a group and there are a number of charitable organisations, as well as private practitioners who offer this alternative therapy around the UK.
Leapequine.com has a UK-wide directory of EFP practitioners to search.
Bereavement cookery classes, dinner and socials
For people who relied on a loved one’s cookery skills, a bereavement can leave them at a loss in the kitchen. Charities including Age UK include cooking classes among activities for older people, in a social setting where they can also learn more about the wellbeing benefits of preparing home cooked meals from scratch. Cookery courses are also among the bereavement support care provided by many hospices to individuals and families.
Group such as this and The Dinner Party – a pioneering supper club movement for younger adults open to talking about their bereavement – provide people with an informal environment to have conversations that touch on their loss, on common ground with others.
Cruse Bereavement Care, together with The British Red Cross and the Co-op is behind More Than Words, another peer-to-peer bereavement support initiative to combat isolation after bereavement. It aims to inspire the launch of hundreds of community-led social groups and activities around the UK for people to join locally; from coffee-and-cake clubs, to walks and reading groups.
- Visit our Help & Resources pages to find details of bereavement support and grief counselling organisations. The UK Counselling Directory has a useful search tool to find qualified private practitioners offering a wide range of therapies.