Mental Health

Exploring art as therapy for grief


Art therapy was being practiced in the United States in the 1940’s, with the most influential North American practitioners being educator Margaret Naumburg and artist Edith Kramer.

Naumburg linked art to the expression of the unconscious through free association. Kramer became an important figure in laying the groundwork for art therapy education. The American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969.

By working to bring the conscious, unconscious and subconscious into expressive and tangible forms, the creative processes involved in art therapy have been praised for their ability to encourage personal growth, mindfulness, and self-discovery.

So now, how does art help and how do you get started? For those experiencing grief, the feeling of raw and deep emotions sometimes needs an outlet that is beyond words. Perhaps painting, drawing, photography, crafts, etc. is a form that helps those feelings have an outlet. Research has shown that the actual act of making art can be soothing and calming. It relaxes the nervous system and helps the healing process. Through the creation of art there’s an avenue for emotions like anger, fear and anxiety. Art offers a sense of control that is missing in the life of someone who is grieving.

Even if you have never taken an art class you can create. Start with a quiet space and a period of time when you will not be interrupted. Don’t compare your art to anyone else, just create. Keep what you create, if possible, date it. Try to stay with the creative process for at least 15 minutes at the beginning. Your time will increase at your own pace.

Dusk to Dawn will be offering a Lunch and Learn at noon Dec. 14 at Christ Lutheran, 300 W. South Blvd. Carol Baird will be presenting her art journey. Don’t miss out, bring your lunch and learn about art as a therapy for dealing with grief. The event is free and open to the public, but participants are encouraged to preregister at

Dusk to Dawn will also be offering a Longest Night an ecumenical service at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at Christ Lutheran. The Longest Night is a service of quiet reflection designed to shed light and hope into the lives of those who may be experiencing loss and who may find the holidays less than joyful.


MaryLou Dawald is a board member with Dusk-to-Dawn Bereavement Service, a local nonprofit organization providing free access to grief counseling for individuals struggling through loss. To learn more, donate, or make an appointment, contact us at 765-376-5644, or You can also find us on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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