Grief in art therapy


The process of grief holds many layers of emotions for the people left behind. They often have to deal with intense emotions under an overwhelming layer of shock and disbelief. Grief can often result in repressing emotion as well as experiencing feelings of guilt over thing left unsaid. Art therapy can help clients by unlocking repressed emotion as well as providing an avenue to externally express inwardly held emotions.

Keeping our loved ones safe and close is mostly a process of feeling that life is in control. When a loved one dies, this loss of control over our relationships can be destabilising. Creative interventions can help provide a sense of control to your client where they can make choices over art mediums, colours, and the creative process. This is relevant for both children and adults who lose loved ones.

Through creative expression, clients are able to tell their personal stories of connection to their loved one. They are able to seek comfort through constructing a narrative around their relationship with their loved one.

The final artwork can also serve as a reminder to your client of the therapeutic process of connecting with their emotions as well as a reminder of the positive aspects of their relationship. Artworks created through the art therapy process are tangible items that your client can use in the future when processing difficult emotions that result from grief.

The case study has focused on death-related grief, however, grief can also be experienced in a non-death loss such as divorce, job redundancy, losing a home, natural disaster and any other life experience that entails a loss.

Types of activities could potentially be:

  • Writing and Drawing Trauma Narratives
  • Epitaphs
  • Acrostic Poems
  • Unfinished Sentences/Writing Prompts
  • Life Imprints
  • Journaling
  • Bibliotherapy and Creative Writing
  • Letter Writing
  • Drama
  • Commemoration/Rituals
  • Planting
  • Linking Objects
  • Drawing/Painting/Collage

Additional creative exercises to use in a variety of situations include:

  • Story telling through pictures of comic illustration
  • Commemorating memories through crafts such as scrapbooking
  • Relationship Tree (created by N.Lynn Peterson)
  • Art Dolls


Below is an incredible Podcast which i listened to over the weekend which had a lot of great insights into the mind of a person stricken with Grief which i believe helped me further my understanding of Grief in a session.

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