Working with Grief – Art Therapy Memorial Projects

In grief work in art therapy, I have often assisted my clients to make art therapy memorial projects.  These projects can take many forms.

For example, the picture above is a small wooden box painted with the portrait of a dear cat.  This box serves as a resting place for the cat’s ashes.  In this case, the artwork makes the project both personalized and an elevated art piece to honor the companion’s memory.

Memorial or Memory Boxes

First off, a memorial box can be a symbolic container for honoring a loved one.  The box can contain pictures, trinkets, or things that represent memories of the loved one.  Furthermore, it can also be a depository for writing letters to that person of memories or things you wish you could say to them.  You can display it somewhere with honor, or keep it in a private space on a shelf, just for your eyes.  For kids, I’m a huge fan of the book The Memory Box: A Book about Grief by Joanna Rowland


What You Will Need

People often ask me, “how does art therapy work, how is it done?”  As you can see with the options above, it really depends on the individual!  Art therapy doesn’t have a magical formula or specific ingredients that must be included.  Often, the best art includes the stuff you already have repurposed into art.

What Makes Art Therapy Different from An Art Project

One of the biggest differences between making a craft project and art therapy is that an art therapist must have a master’s degrees in art therapy.  They are trained in counseling techniques as well as art-making techniques.  Therefore, when the emotions get intense, you have a trained professional you trust there to support you.  Art therapy is built upon a therapeutic relationship.  Unlike a workbook, self-help book, webinar, or craft project, a therapist is trained to meet you where you are, each time you come to a session.

Have a special someone you’d like to honor?  I’d love to hear about it so we can work together to honor their memory in a unique way.

Closing Thoughts on Grief Work

Journeys through grief can seem never-ending, overwhelming at times, and do not follow prescribed stages (contrary to popular belief). I can promise you this, grief gets better with time.  Each person’s grief is unique and there is no “normal” time frame for grieving.  Likewise, I have a special place in my heart for grief work.  Feeling like you have someone with you to walk with you as you navigate your path through grief can make all the journey.  If you want to learn more, read on about grief therapy here.