Artful Grief: Open Art Studio

Two day experience: The Art Studio is open from 9 to 5 each day.

The Artful Grief: Open Art Studio is a safe, sacred and quiet space for participants to create their own art work in response to their personal journey and experience healing and transformation. The studio will serve as an "art making" sanctuary that meets the ongoing needs of attendees throughout the conference. No talent required, only the willingness to be with what is in your heart, for “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

As part of the Artful Grief: Open Art Studio experience, Sharon will share her own journey of healing through the creative process of collage making. A few of the collages she created will be on display as she answers questions about the images that arose from her loss.

There will be a designated “Exhibition Space" where participants may display their art work. These heartfelt images will serve as markers along the path to healing, will stimulate conversation and make sacred the shared journey.


An Artful Grief: Open Art Studio was offered during the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Conference: May 2017 and TAPS National Suicide Survivors Conference: Gold Star Families: Military: October 2017 and the Association for Death Education and Counseling National Conference, 2018.

Artful Grief: Complicated Grief, Collage and Trauma Theory

3 to 5 Hours: Master Class Presentation.

Presentation Description/ 150 words:

Artful Grief is a collage workshop focusing on images, created by an art therapist in response to the suicide of her seventeen year old daughter, as visual representations of complicated grief and complex trauma. It is an extensive experiential collage workshop for trauma focused therapists, who are often hesitant to treat grief; through didactic and mindful art experiential approaches. The neurobiological effects of complicated grief will be briefly reviewed with van der Kolk, Fisher and Perry’s trauma theories. This case study is grounded in the grief and bereavement work of Neimeyer's Meaning Reconstruction Model, Worden's Task Model of Bereavement, Stroebe & Schut’s Dual Process Model (1999, 2001) and Shear’s work with Complicated Grief. Trauma and grief work supports the effectiveness of nonverbal creative interventions to address the somatic impact on mind/body.


Presentation Description/ 50 words:

We will explore our personal and professional experiences of complicated grief through collage making as a vehicle to piece together, process and integrate bereavement and trauma focused modalities for trauma informed and/or grief therapists. Collage offers boundaried emotional safety in its use of found magazine imagery.


Workshop Outline: Five Hours
  • 15 minute welcome
  • 1 hour power point on Artful Grief / Grief and Bereavement Theory
  • 45 minute collage experiential
  • 1 hour lunch
  • 30 minute collage experiential
  • 1 hour power point on theoretical foundation of Complicated Grief and Complex Trauma
  • 1 hour collage experiential
  • 30 minutes questions and answers

Three Learning Objectives:
  • Participants will be able to describe three ways the creative process of collage can help the bereaved “revision narratives” of loss and create meaning.
  • Participants will be able to identify four features of Complicated Grief as a form of Complex Trauma.
  • Participants will be able to explain four ways that trauma and grief work support the effectiveness of creative interventions in addressing somatic and neurobiological impact on clients.

This Master Class was presented at the Expressive Therapies Summit 2017 Presenters: Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT & Peggy Kolodny, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT

Artful Grief: Grief, Loss and the Expressive Arts

3 Hour Presentation or 90 Minute Presentation.

Presentation Description:

Artful Grief is a visual diary and case study of complicated grief by an art therapist, in the aftermath of her daughter's suicide. This decade long journey is documented through the creative process of collage making. Sharon makes sense of her daughter's violent death, forges a new identity and returns to life.

Ten of Sharon's spontaneous collages are presented within Neimeyer’s framework of Meaning Reconstruction, where three key elements are highlighted: The Practical: How did it happen, The Relational: Who am I and The Existential: Why it happen. Worden and Winokuer’s Task Model of Bereavement and Stroebe and Schut’s Duel Process Model will also be addressed along with excerpts from Sharon's journals, which offer insight into the healing potential of the creative process.

Although Artful Grief focuses on a creative process in response to a death by suicide it is applicable to those suffering through other traumatic life experiences.

Participants will have the opportunity to experience the transformational process of image making by creating their own collages along with sharing and processing. No talent required, only the willingness to be with what is, for “a picture is worth a thousand words.”


Description of the teaching methods to be used:

Power Point Presentation with a discussion and Q&A Experiential – Collage making opportunity for all participants Process – Discussion and Q&A


Three Learning Objectives:
  • Participants will identify three elements that support Meaning Reconstruction within bereavement as expressed through collage making: The Practical: How did it happen, The Relational: Who am I and The Existential: Why it happened.
  • Participants will recognize Worden and Winokuer’s: Task Model of Bereavement and Strobe and Schut’s: Duel Process Model, two current conceptualizations of the grief response, expressed and enlivened in an expressive arts modality.
  • Participants will understand, from principle to practice, how magazine words and images used in the construction of collage, reflect an experience of loss, invite presence and provide a safe structure/ container for exploring what is impossible to articulate.

This 3 hour workshop was presented at the Johns Hopkins Medicine: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences 2017 and Columbia School of Social Work 2017.

This 90 minute workshop was presented at The American Art Therapy Association National Conference 2017.

Experiential Workshops



Handmade Watercolor Books:
Tiny pages that speak volumes

90 Minute Experiential Workshop:

This workshop was presented at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Conference: Gold Star Families: Military. Washington, D.C. May 2017


Handmade Books:

Tiny pages that speak volumes, offers the opportunity for reflective writing during a creative process that supports sense making. During our time together we will…write, loosen, let go, layer, soften, dissolve, flow, tear, deconstruct, fold, tie together, hold and embrace…our stories. We are story tellers and have been for millennia. Our knowledge, wisdom and passion have been carved onto the walls of caves, written on tablets, hides, parchment, paper and more recently, created sitting at our computers. Our stories are personal and visceral, and when we find a safe place for them to be heard and seen there is healing.

Healing/ Medicine/ Prayer and/or Talking Sticks

90 Minute Experiential Workshop:

This workshop was presented at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Suicide Survivors Conference: Gold Star Families: Military: Phoenix, Arizona. October 2017.

Healing Sticks, Medicine Sticks, Prayer Sticks and/or Talking Sticks come out of Aboriginal and Native American traditions. They are important to those crossing the “desert” while on their grief journeys. These long narrow ceremonial objects, crafted from tree branches, and measuring the distance between your elbow and fingertips, are decorated with paint, feathers, beads, twine, leather and various found objects. They empower us, they are symbolic and embody our prayers or petitions, they clarify intentions, strengthen inner resources and embolden our voice through freedom of expression. They are tangible objects of hope and healing as we move through the waste land toward growth and new life. Join us and craft your personal “Healing, Medicine, Prayer and/or Talking Stick”… of HOPE.

Mask Making

90 Minute Experiential Workshop:

This workshop was presented at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Conference: May 2017 and TAPS National Suicide Survivors Conference: Gold Star Families: Military: October 2017.

Masks and mask making are ancient and powerful tools, used in the process of healing and the journey toward wholeness. Evidence of their use can be found on the walls of caves as far back as 12,000 years ago. You will harness your innate gifts of imagination and your ability to create, and like your ancestors, use the magic of mask making to explore various aspects of your persona, find new ways to communicate hidden thoughts, feelings and memories, reclaim joy and open locked doors. Masks reveal, conceal, and forever memorialize all at the same time. The mask making process is an opportunity for healing and transformation.

Casting material will be used to create an authentic mask of your face. Vaseline will be applied to your face and then wet casting material will be overlaid. This will set and dry for a time and then be removed from your face. You will work in pairs throughout the creative process and share your experience at the end of the workshop. Your mask will dry completely overnight and you will be able to decorate it the following day, in the Artful Grief Studio.