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3 Ways Improv Can Help You Cope With Grief


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Oct 07, 2016

3 Ways Improv Can Help You Cope With Grief

Improv is an unrehearsed (it's short for “improvised”) form of theater that is popular both at the local level (most mid-sized and large cities will have improv classes and theaters, and the biggest cities will have several) and at the national level (US and UK readers are probably familiar with the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”). There are several forms of it, but it is almost always an exercise in comedy, although dramatic improv also exists.

It's an art form, and can be incredibly instrumental in helping you cope with your grief. Here's how.

Yes, and...

That phrase is the cornerstone of improv. If you do take a class, “yes, and” will probably be the very first lesson you are taught. It means you are accepting the circumstances you are given, and adding to them. In other words, if your scene partner(s) initiates a bit where you're all astronauts on Mars, the most important thing you can do as an improviser is accept that reality (“yes”) and build on it (“and”). It would be a terrible faux pas to say, “No, cancel all that, we are doing a farm scene instead.”

The equivalents to the grieving process are obvious.  You have a new reality, and hopefully unlike in improv class, it's a horrible one. But it is reality. You will move on more quickly if you accept it (“yes”) and build on it (“and.”)

The importance of listening

One of the most important skills you will develop in improv is the ability to listen well. It's a skill that most people think they have already, but when you get into improv class, many people are surprised to find that they don't listen as well as they think they do. Instead, they are in their own head, plotting, thinking of the next funny or interesting thing to say.

But improv works best when you are completely and totally engaged with your scene partner(s) and letting all of their lines land. The lines of your partners are gifts for you to open, build on, heighten, and make great comedy or even art.

It teaches you how to better listen in your life as well. When we lose a loved one, we often lament that we didn't stop to smell the roses more often, but sometimes we don't have the skill set to really absorb the beauty of the world. The listening skills you develop in improv help you do just that.

Imagination station

At its center, the improv is less about learning skills and learning a craft – although you certainly do – and more about having fun. Improv is fun because it's supposed to be fun. When we are children, we actually do improv all the time – playing house, making our dolls and GI Joes talk – that's quite precisely what improv is. Improv is adult play time, and the skills they teach allow everyone involved to have the most fun possible. It's sometimes work, sure, but it's work in the pursuit of creating some of the most organic fun a group of adults can have.

Reconnecting to your childlike sense of wonder and imagination is just the ticket to see yourself born anew out of your grief. This is besides all the friends you're likely to make and joy you're likely to experience. Improv is something anyone would do well to undertake, but for a person in mourning, it can't be recommended highly enough.