By Briana Babick
In her second installment, Briana Babick, Lesley University Graduate School of Expressive Therapies 2nd year intern shares her experiences and observations from her internship with All Care Hospice using art therapy within bereavement counseling.
Did you know that All Care Hospice provides free individual and group bereavement services to hospice families, as well as members of the community that may also be in need?
Grief can be an overwhelming and all-consuming experience, resulting in difficulty managing daily routine for weeks, months, or even years. A client once shared that although the size and scope of her grief had not been lessened, art therapy bereavement counseling helped her grow as an individual around and beyond it. Art therapy can provide the bereaved an opportunity to safely communicate their grief in ways that may otherwise be difficult to verbalize. Grief is an emotion that we will all experience. Communication, through both verbal and visual means, can help to facilitate positive coping approaches.
One such occasion was with a bereavement client whose grief had manifested into despair. Directing him to depict his grief in a drawing, he created an image without hesitation. After completing this phase of the drawing, he then went on to represent both the challenges experienced as well as the many joyous aspects of his life through the image. Through art making he was able to express and find safe symbols for his grief, engaging in a dialogue and affirm his value and meaning in life.
In addition to individual counseling, I’ve also observed an art therapy bereavement group on a few occasions. It is inspiring to witness individuals, each with unique grief stories, come together sharing their passion and wisdom through their collective art making. In addition to the healing attributes of art therapy, there is the aspect of a shared experience that can provide solace.
Although art therapy is not always used in bereavement counseling, it can be a powerful aid to process grief in many situations. My goal as a bereavement counselor is to provide a supportive environment in which I “hold” the sorrow felt and when appropriate, assist the mourner in rebuilding of their identity.