Art therapy: helping young people as they face life without a loved one

Written by: Joe Emery

Emily Gray is one of our child and family therapists. She's trained and qualified in art therapy. Emily helps children, teenagers, and young adults between the ages of 4-18 who have a loved one under our care. Some are pre-bereaved with a loved one at the end of their life. Many are bereaved and have already lost someone to a life-limiting illness. Art therapy can be used as a tool to express thoughts and feelings that can be difficult to verbalise. It's one of the many techniques used at our Hospice.

Each young person will grieve differently and feel different emotions, and that's OK. There's no wrong or right way to deal with sorrow. Having a choice of art materials can support the exploration of their feelings be it through clay, pens, pencils or paint.


The five stages of grief are often coined as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People who are grieving don't always go through these steps in that order or experience all of them. A stage of grief can sometimes repeat.

If the person in therapy is angry, then they can rip or stamp on paper. They can laugh or cry. Sometimes, even a blank piece of paper can be quite daunting, so Emily and the young person will do something together if the young person wishes to.

Clay is often a 'go-to'. They can pull it apart, squeeze it and release difficult feelings through it. Or they can be creative and delicately craft. Art can lead to conversation and bring about unconscious thoughts and feelings. If the person wants to talk, then Emily is here for them.

A lot of the young children Emily sees haven't experienced death before. They sometimes struggle with understanding that it's forever. Art therapy can help support a young person at one of the most difficult and confusing time of their lives. Thanks to your help and Children in Need funding, we can continue to support children, teenagers, and young adults to overcome their grief as they face life without a loved one.

You can find out about the many ways you can support our Hospice here. With only 27% of our annual running costs provided by the NHS, we simply wouldn't be here without you.