Art Therapy Intervention for Grief and Loss


When one experiences the death of a loved one, the following response is grief. This refers to the natural, response that people have towards death. It features a mixture of emotions which include; anger, guilt, sadness and many others. The thoughts and behaviors of the victim become affected in different ways. Once grief is experienced, it is important to note that every individual adjusts to the loss uniquely. The same is the case when comparing people of different ages. For example, children mourn differently than adults. This is because, unlike the grownups, they do not know how to use words to express their grief. This is why it tends to reflect on their mood and behavior. This paper features the use of a drawing book and coloring pencils as art intervention for grief and loss. It focuses on the grieving children who are aged above 6 years.

Drawing Book and Coloring Pencils

The intervention will use a therapeutic activity book which will enable the child to use art and writing to self-express. This approach offers a safe, yet comforting way for the child to ask complex questions and even to clear their concerns. The book will feature different fun activities for every page. These have been based on recommendations from professionals on how a child’s social and emotional skills may be strengthened. Therefore, it presents a safe place for them to deal with their mixed feelings of grief and loss (Canine, 1996). The availability of different pencil colors is important as kids tend to view a color as symbolizing a certain emotion. For instance, red is said to symbolize anger, while blue is used for sadness. Therefore, these will be important in determining the situation of a child.

The book may be used in different ways. First, the child may be given control by asking what it is he or she would like to draw. They should be given privacy to work on it in their won space. Here, the book should act like a diary whereby the child only shares pages that he is comfortable with. Otherwise, the child should never be forced to share what he is not ready to (Rando, 1984). However, there are times when a child may request the adult to be present. Such a child will be able to share answers out loud as activities on each page are completed. Either approach is good, as long as the child is not forced to open up if they do not feel ready to.

Second, the book may be used by the adult to be a means of starting a meaningful conversation. Since the drawing book has prompts in each page, a dialogue of feelings may be started through it. The contents which the child draws or writes can be very important in offering clues as to what the child is currently experiencing or struggling with. To approach the child, the conversation should start by asking an open ended question regarding the artwork. Any comments given should be nonjudgmental as this will help them to validate their feelings in a certain way. Aside from being used by parents, a therapist may also use the book if it is evident that the child is in need of professional help (Worden, 1982). Mostly, the therapist will use it alongside other approaches.

Third, some children may need an adult to show them how to use creativity to heal. Therefore, when the child starts working on the pages with simple questions, the adult should also get a piece of paper and answer for themselves. This will encourage the adult to identify specific feelings, hence also teaching the child how to use the intervention for positive results. It will enable them to understand why creativity is so important.

Importance of the Intervention

When a child draws or colors, there is really no need to force words out so as to understand how they feel. This is because the head, heart and hands are interconnected. Therefore, the child will feel better equipped to express the different feelings that were initially trapped on the insides. Through such creativity, a child is able to witness the experience from a different angle; it makes things clearer and appear distant as if it did not happen to them but to someone else. This enables them to feel in control of the situation; hence encouraging them to narrate the story over and over again.

Through such an approach, even a trained therapist does not need to make the child to speak up (Canine, 1996). This is because his fears, beliefs and emotions can all be identified from their artwork. The most important thing to note is not the final artwork itself, but rather the mode through which ideas and thoughts are conveyed. For example, if the child is drawing a deceased parent, and suddenly starts acting angrily and quickly, yet carelessly draws the parent, then anger may be suggestive. This may mean that he is angry with the parent who has left before he was ready.

Art is very important because it encourages the child to open up. Once the creative imagination is open, the child will be able to let his thoughts impact the process of drawing as well as the final. It enables the child to detach from the pain. It enables for a short release which is beneficial as the child will be able to express himself appropriately (Rando, 1984). Art encourages healing as it ensures the emotional roller coaster is contained. Although still quite young, a child will be able to make sense of what has happened, or is happening at the moment of sadness.

Lastly, this intervention enables the child to piece back together memories, hence encouraging process. During anniversary dates or when going through photo albums, fragments of memories tend to occur. Through art work, the seemingly painful pictures and memories will be contained by being given the deserved attention (Worden, 1982). The child will be able to block the painful memory by engaging in a distracting activity which makes it easier to talk and grieve.


It is evident that the use of a professional research-based drawing book and color pencils is effective for children. This is because it is not only distracting the child by being fun, but also encourages them to open up by making it seem distant. Basically, it makes the grieving process manageable for them, considering the fact that they find it difficult to simply use words and share with close individuals. It also presents an approach that is perfect for evaluation because therapists can easily determine what a child is feeling by just going through their artwork and monitoring how they behave. 


Canine, J. (1996). Psychosocial aspects of death and dying. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Rando, T. (1984). Grief, dying and death. Champaign, Il: Research Press.

Worden, W. (1982). Grief counseling and grief therapy. (4th). New York: Springer   Publishing.