Children Address Grief Through Art

BY: Molly Kohut, MA, PC, ATR-BC

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

As a board certified art therapist, I am continually astounded by the creative work done by the children of the families here at hospice. I love to see the excitement, the energy, and the expressive nature of children who tell their stories through their art.

Children investigate their feelings, explore their world, and discover themselves through play. Art is an extension of play which is a very natural way for children to express themselves. Because of the raw nature of grief, bereaved children can have a difficult time communicating their thoughts and feelings. Art is an opportunity to identify and release emotions, it is a way to cope with the many facets of grief, and it is also a way to memorialize the loved one.

Often I hear parents and guardians ask questions about the meaning of their children's art. When a child draws a picture of a funeral or of their loved one dying, this can be a disturbing image to the parent. However, the drawing is a very healthy and appropriate way for the child to express themselves.

I encourage the children I work with to draw or write as a way to articulate their feelings about their loved one's illness or death. Sometimes it can be difficult for a child to verbalize what they are struggling with, and art is a natural way for the child to process everything that is going on around them.
  • If you are unsure how to talk to your child about their artwork, here are some suggestions: 
  • Take a non-judgmental attitude toward what you see. 
  • Ask open-ended questions to gather more information about the picture. 
  • Encourage your child to explain what she drew instead of assuming another meaning. 

Assure your child that she can ask questions about what happened to her loved one, and that you are there whenever she wants to talk about her feelings.

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