Art Therapy - A Way Through Grieving for Children

Art Therapy

A Way Through Grieving for Children

Written By: Lisa Hardy

Of all the time I have ever spent, working and playing with children is by far the most satisfying and important. To be a positive part of a child’s life can change the trajectory of that life, for the benefit of the planet. Lofty ideas? Maybe, but the more time I spend with kids the more I come to know that the veil between this physical world and the very real world of the imaginal and ethereal is thinner. The flow back and forth is natural because there is no separation or divide. Grief work is spontaneous and natural for children, when they are supported. Having this space to move offers a way of seeing that is extraordinary and transpersonal. When children are in pain or experiencing loss, they need to be supported to feel and to process in an experiential way that includes play, imagination and freedom. Art therapy provides just the right milieu of: safety, being held, and being seen - together with open free expression.

This flow is the successful movement of grief. I believe given the right conditions, on a soul level we all know how to move through the luminal space of loss. Children are better able to be authentic in their expression. The experience can leave a child with a transitional way of being with the deceased. This relationship transformation, can be life affirming.  It can strengthen the relationship to the self and trust in life. The flow through, is vastly different than “baggage' that can happen when the grief process is denied or stunted. For a child, having a healthy experience with their expression of difficult emotions, lays a blue print for effectively dealing with other life losses that will inevitably come.

To be present with a child as they move and heal is an extraordinary experience.  I have been blessed to have had such moments with: children in care, inner city pre-school learners, elementary children in a school setting, African orphans and with my own three children right here in St. Albert. When our family lost a much loved grandmother, the grief was searing and I worried about my very young children's ability to integrate this loss into their short lives. All three children attended the funeral. They were only 4, 6, and 8 but I knew they needed to be present to see our grief, our good bye and your love continue. They witnessed and learned but they also knew and taught. Three weeks after the funeral my 4 year old son Nicholas and I watched a magnificent purple sunset behind our house. As we held hands he asked me. “Mom did you see Grandmas face?" I said “Where? Where is she Nicholas?” He said “Mom, she is everywhere!”