A Bereavement Art Therapy Support Group for Grieving Adults

Graduation Date

Summer 2004

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Gwen Sanders, MFT, ART-BC


Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the top three leading causes of death in the United States. There are 3,200 operational hospice programs in the United States that provide quality home care for terminally ill patients, as well as bereavement services for the family members. At Hospice of the Valley, bereavement services are available for family members thirteen months after a patient dies. These services are open to the community, and include individual counseling, grief support groups, and children’s grief groups; however, the groups cease to meet during the summer months. An Art Therapy Bereavement Support Group can offer an opportunity for creative expressions of grief during the summer. Bereavement support groups at Hospice of the Valley are centered on Worden’s tasks of grief, which include: acknowledging the loss as a reality, identifying and expressing the emotions of grief, acknowledging and resolving ambivalence, and learning new skills and reinvesting emotional energy in new ways. Grief is a difficult subject to discuss, and there are oftentimes few words to describe one’s loss. Art therapy can provide an alternative means to verbal expression to help one through the difficult process of bereavement. Art therapy in combination with the group process allows for an effective instrument to work through the tasks of grief.

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