Art for heart’s sake

March 4th, 2022

It’s so hard for children to understand what’s happening when their family is going through tough times.

For our adult patients, often it is their fear and concern for the children they love that is the hardest part of their journey. Thanks to your support, we can run an arts therapy programme to help children and young people make sense of things. Nina is Mary Potter Hospice’s Art Therapist, and we asked her to tell us more about the support she provides.

The children I support are bereaved, or going through the illness of a family member such as a grandparent, parent or sibling.

Nina, Mary Potter Hospice Art Therapist (left) with Donna, Clinical Services Director (right).

Children and young people can’t always speak about how they feel. In an art therapy session they choose what they want to do. I don’t make them talk or interpret what they are doing. They express themselves if they want to, or they can just experience making something with their own hands.

This can bring a sense of achievement at a time when one of their main feelings can be helplessness.

It is all about the process, not the results. This can be an obstacle with adults, who worry that they aren’t creative or good at art. Children are freer in their expression.

Our work with children during illness and after the death of a loved one allows them to say goodbye to the person they love in their own way. This is so important to help them to heal.

I see results in the children I work with. They might be more relaxed and calm. They become happy sitting at a table being creative. Like one young girl I’ve been working with. She has a barrowload of issues, but she is getting calmer each time I see her.

I looked after a family who had five children and one was sadly dying. I worked with the kids as a group as well as cousins. We did a big canvas, and everyone traced around their hands and decorated them and stuck them on the canvas. The sister’s hand print was put in the middle.

I left materials behind for them so other family members could also do it.

I use a lot of materials. It needs to be nice materials that can be used in abundance. I think it needs to feel like a treat, like a special thing to be doing. It is special ‘me’ time for them.

As an Art Therapist I am the safe and calm place where they don’t have to talk about death if they don’t feel like it. Thank you for helping make this work happen for the children.

We urgently need your help today, especially with COVID-19 creating more demand than ever for art therapy. Children find it particularly tough having to stay at home, with so many reminders of their loved one’s illness. We need to be able to help and support them right now.