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Grief Thunderstorms: Expressing Feelings through Art and Music

Posted by Nicole Kaufmann, Music Therapist

Grief Thunderstorms: Expressing Feelings through Art and Music

Camp Courage provides a safe, supportive and fun environment for campers to explore and express their feelings. Activities are led by professionally trained counselors and trained JourneyCare volunteers. 

Have you ever really watched a thunderstorm? Sometimes it moves in slowly and you can watch as the clouds roll in, the rain starts to fall, and the thunder rumbles. Other times it hits unexpectedly, it’s loud and aggressive, ending with a peaceful breeze and sunshine. In a way, grief can be a bit like a thunderstorm too. It doesn’t always move in a steady predictable pattern. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, while other times it moves in waves.

This past month, we had the incredible opportunity to host a bereavement camp for a group of kids who are all experiencing grief in their own ways. Utilizing art, music, movement and other modalities, campers were given tools and strategies to learn coping skills, make connections with other kids who have experienced a loss, and learn how to express themselves and share feelings. During this time, campers were given the chance to think about what their own “grief thunderstorm” might look like.  Campers were encouraged to think of feelings associated with grief and how they related to a storm— calling out feelings such as sadness related to rain, and shocked to lightening, loving and happy to be like a rainbow and sunshine. After this, campers were given a long sheet of paper and directed to draw their own grief thunderstorm, thinking of what they have felt and experienced since the death of their special person to now. As campers got to work, sheets of paper were being covered with drawings of gray clouds with lightening striking from them, rain and wind, even a tornado to indicate feelings of confusion. Bright yellow suns and colorful rainbows were tucked into clouds as they reflected on love and memories of their loved one. Each camper took the time to create something individualized and unique to his and her own experience and were able to find commonalities in seeing similar feelings throughout the pages.

Drum Circle 3

As campers finished up their giant sheets of thunderstorms, percussive instruments of drums, shakers, rain sticks and tambourines waited in the center of the room. Each group came to the center as their counselors held out the sheet of paper, now displaying a composition of a grief thunderstorm. Campers were then encouraged to play the storm that they drew as a group. Drums thundered and claves cracked as campers followed the pictures of clouds and lightening. Shakers and the sounds of rain and wind pitter pattered with the drops of rain, while a gentle rasp croaked, and triangle softly chimed to sunshine and rainbows. As each group played, campers were able to discuss the feelings that they saw on the pages as well as the what they heard expressed in the instruments.

Through music and art, campers were given tools to express themselves in new ways, learn and share about feelings, and see that they aren’t alone in how they have experienced it. 

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