Colour Psychology: Funerals and Grieving

My interest in psychology has led me to study the connection between mood and colour. Colour psychology, for example, studies the effects of colours on human behaviours and emotions. 

One of the better-known examples of this is from the work of Carl Jung, who was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in the early 20th century. He says, “Colours are the mother tongue of the subconscious” and “express the main psychic functions of man.”

Many studies have shown that colour is more influential in our lives than we may realise. How colour is perceived is subjective for some, but we have colours widely recognised for certain things across the board. For instance, colours close to the red spectrum are warmer, like red, orange, and yellow. Colours may evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth to feelings of anger and hostility. In contrast, blue colours like purple and green evoke calm, sadness, or indifference. 

And this is nothing new because ancient cultures practised what was called light medicine, which uses colours to heal, and this is still used today in some holistic practices. Research has shown that the “mood-altering effect” of colour may be temporary in many cases, but it can also influence our performance.

We also see this in advertising. Colours or shades can have various effects, heightening our moods or triggering anxiety. However, the colour of the products we buy may have something to do with our personality and why we choose that product. From the clothes we wear to the car we drive – the colour can make a statement about how people perceive us. For example, some perceived the colour black as powerful or even sexy.

Colour plays an integral part in conveying information and influencing our decisions.

And so, I have been exploring how this may help with aiding our grief and loss.

Grief is often referred to as black or grey. Some might say even colourless. It’s hard to believe that life’s colours will return when we suffer loss and grief.

Yet, colour does come back.

We may notice eventually that we’ll be smiling again, even laughing, just a little more often. We might see other people and realise that we’re connected again. Others might even comment that we look different somehow, more alive, and that colour is beginning to come back into our life.

This poem by Christine Beington tells it well, I think.

The Colours Of Grief,

How hard it is to fathom,
The sadness in the soul,
How that pain and heartache,
Leave us feeling less than whole,
If grief it were a colour,
It would like it to be known,
That there are so many facets,
The Colours of Grief
Each emotion is a colour on its own.
Black would hold the terror,
Gold the love so true,
Red the fiery anger,
Missing you is blue.
Yellow when a memory,
Flies in to make you smile,
Green is for the calmness,
We feel once in a while,
Violet soothes the torment,
Orange the occasional laugh,
We allow ourselves so rarely,
Grief is not an easy path.
Then pink it draws you to me,
Your colour it is so,
Many colours to remind me,
The pain of letting go.
Then purple is the colour,
Of healing I’ve been told before,
So purple wrap around me,
My heart is truly sore.
So many colours I’ve discovered,
Make up the griever’s soul,
So many emotions to encounter,
In an attempt to make us whole.

I’ve experimented with using colour at funerals to evoke emotions ranging from warmth and comfort to calm and celebration. What colour tie I wear and what colour themes I use in visual tributes can also personalise the ceremony, as can flowers, banners, flags, and personalised orders of services.

Over the past few years, I have worked closely with Bretby Crematorium in Burton-Upon-Trent, which offer mood lighting in its ceremonial halls. Studies have shown that this can profoundly influence the mood and ambience of what can sometimes be exceedingly difficult circumstances. I applaud them for introducing it.

“Colour is how we see and experience the world around us. It should not surprise us that it will also play an integral part in how we engage emotionally with life’s transitions. Finding ways of embracing colour, I think, is the way forward if we’re intent on making the funeral experience all-inclusive, holistic and consequential.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, ‘Nature always wears the colours of the spirit.’”

If you wish to discuss the use of colour within the context of aiding your journey in grief or during the funeral of a loved one, please do get in touch with Steve. He will be only too pleased to discuss this with you.

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