Art Therapy and Grief


Grief can be a difficult emotion for anyone, regardless of age.

Professionals in grief counseling and art therapy work together to address effective non-verbal therapeutic approaches for those dealing with grief. Researchers have worked to show the effectiveness of art therapy for bereaved individuals of all ages. When someone is experiencing grief, it is important for him or her to not feel isolated, but rather to be surrounded and supported by his or her community. Having a support network is one of the effective ways that those experiencing grief can begin to heal. When the support network encourages art-making, especially among young people who have difficulty verbalizing their feelings, the grief may become easier to bear.


When someone close to you passes away, there are a range of emotions and reactions that may be experienced. There is a standard model of grief that has four tasks that must be completed to move on.

The developmental tasks include:

  • Accepting the reality of loss: acknowledging and realizing that the death has occurred
  • Working through to the pain of the grief: not everyone experiences the same pain intensity,
  • Adjusting to the environment where the deceased person is missing
  • Emotionally relocating the deceased and moving on with life

Grief is a highly personal process that varies by individual, so this process is a very general guideline. Learning to cope with the pain takes time and help. Those experiencing grief will move through the steps at their own pace with the guidance of a counselor. The emotional reaction of grieving can include numbness along with pain.

The Counselor’s Role

Giving support to those who experience grief is one of the roles of a grief counselor. There are a number of steps the counselor goes through to advise the person who experienced loss. The first step is acknowledging the loss, by allowing the individual to grieve and share how he or she is feeling. The next includes identifying and expressing the feelings being experienced. Often a wide range of emotions is experienced while grieving, ranging from regret and anger to helplessness and guilt. One of the most important roles of the counselor is to explore the individual’s coping skills. When the bereaved are given a number of ways to cope with the pain they are feeling, they are better prepared to handle it in a healthy way.

Art and Grieving

One of these coping skills is the creation of art. Art therapy, particularly performed in a group setting, creates a safe space for those who are grieving to express their emotions. In a group setting, individuals who are dealing with the grieving process can connect and receive support from one another, as well as the therapist. If an individual, specifically a child, is dealing with grief it might be difficult for them to even begin discussing the person who died. By creating art, the image becomes a launching point for conversation that might not have happened otherwise.

Art has shown to be pleasurable and relaxing for those doing it. It also encourages healing, one of the most important steps in the grieving process. Through art therapy, individuals increase their self-awareness and become empowered in the healing process.