the Refuge

The art of Self discovery...Creativity, Healing and Spirituality

Artful Grief: Professional Presentations and Experiential Workshops 


"There is no way to grieve, only your way.  Grief is hard work and there is no way around it only through it." Letters to my Son: A Journey through Grief, (Carmody, 2002)

Collage...integrating the torn pieces / Professional Presentation

Collage…integrating the torn pieces is an Art Therapy workshop that includes the presentation of personal collage images, art work created by suicide survivors and the direct experience of creating a collage with personal meaning.   Additionally, case studies of normal and complicated grief serve as visual diaries and tangible objects that reflect current Grief and Bereavement Models such as: Attachment Informed Grief Therapy, (Kosminsky & Jordan) Complicated Grief, (Shear) Meaning Reconstruction, (Neimeyer) Task Models of Bereavement, (Worden) and The Duel Process Model, (Stroebe & Schut).


Collage was first used in China around 200 BC.  It derives its name from the French verb coller, to glue.  It is a technique of composing works of art by pasting paper onto any surface. It is a healing technique I embraced in the aftermath of my daughter Kristin’s suicide in 2001.  It became the foundation for my book Artful Grief:  A diary of healing, (Strouse, 2013) and the mainstay of my professional work in the field of grief and bereavement.


Complicated Grief, Collage and Trauma Theory:  An Artful Integration / Professional Presentation

Complicated Grief, Collage and Trauma Theory:  An Artful Integration is a 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.  Case studies are grounded in the grief and bereavement work of Kosminsky and Jordan’s Attachment Informed Grief Therapy,   Shear’s Complicated Grief Theories, Worden's Task Model of Bereavement, Stroebe and Schut’s Dual Process Model and  Neimeyer's Meaning Making Model. Trauma and grief work support the effectiveness of nonverbal creative interventions and address the somatic impact on mind/body.

Sample Learning Objectives for Professional Presentations and Experiential Workshops:

1. Participants will be able to describe three ways the creative process of collage can help the bereaved “revision narratives” of loss and create meaning.


2. Participants will be able to identify four features of Complicated Grief.


3. Participants will be able to articulate three Grief and Bereavement Theories that are enlivened through the Expressive Arts.


4.  Participants will understand how torn and cut pieces of paper, words and images used in the construction of collages can reflect the experiences of traumatic loss, and provide an opportunity to share the unspeakable.  This increases communication skills and provides an opportunity to be seen and heard.


5.  Participants will understand the creative process of collage making as a safe, sacred and silent act in which conscious and sub conscious feelings are explored and released.  This increase insight and mastery.


6.  Participants will distinguish the difference between traditional verbal therapies and art therapy approaches to healing grief, in which the art product serves as a permanent visual record of the healing process.  This provides perspective and increases identity and self esteem.

Professional Presentations and Experiential Workshops can be tailored to your specific needs: From a 90 minute workshop to an all day Master Class 

Sample: 90 minute Professional Presentation and Experiential Workshop


Presentation of Sharon's Collage images -           15 minutes


Opportunity for questions -                                   5 minutes


Participants make their own collages -                 35 minutes


Sharing of collages and questions -                      25 minutes


Clean up and complete evaluation forms -           10 minutes


 Materials Needed:


I will need tables and chairs.


I will need three to four magazines for each participant.


I will provide colored construction paper, glue sticks and scissors.

"The beauty of life is, while we cannot undo what is already done, we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change so that every moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger, but in wisdom, understanding and love."  Jennifer Edwards

Artful Grief: Presentations and Experiential Workshops for the Bereaved

90 minute/ 3 hours / all day retreat / 2 day conference: Open Art Studio experience


Collage…the art of healing  


In Collage...The Art of Healing, Sharon will present her own collage work and take you into the depths of emotion that arose from her loss.  Her collage images reflect fragmentation, chaos, reorganization, integration, forgiveness and healing.  Participants will create their own collages and select pictures and words from magazines.  They will cut, paste, arrange and embellish their own creations and experience healing during the creative process.  No talent required, only the willingness to be in your heart, for "a picture is worth a thousand words."


90 minute: Collage…the art of healing


Presentation of Sharon's Collage images -           15 minutes


Opportunity for questions -                                   5 minutes


Participants make their own collages -                 35 minutes


Sharing of collages and questions -                      25 minutes


Clean up and complete evaluation forms -           10 minutes


Mask Making…a process of letting go and surrender


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 reopen 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.


This workshop is limited to 30 people. A large quiet space is needed where 3 large round table cloths can be laid on the floor.  30 towels are needed as well as chairs, set in a circle for processing after the masks are made


90 Minute:  Mask Making


Welcome / introduction of partners    5 minutes


Apply Vaseline to face                       10 minutes


Apply casting material to face            10 minutes


Let mask dry                                       10 minutes


Remove mask/ switch partners           5 minutes


Apply Vaseline to face                       10 minutes


Apply casting material to face            10 minutes


Let mask dry                                       10 minutes


Remove mask                                      5 minutes


Sharing and Processing                       15 minutes


Handmade Book… tiny pages that speak volumes


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


90 minute:  Hand Made Books


Introduction                      15 minutes


Meditation                        10 minutes


Writing                              10 minutes


Process                              15 minutes


Painting                              20 minutes


Folding and tearing             5 minutes


Processing/ Ending            15 minutes


Healing Sticks / Medicine Sticks/ Prayer Sticks and/or Talking Sticks


Healing Sticks, Medicine Sticks, Prayer Sticks and/or Talking Sticks come out of Aboriginal and Native American traditions.  They are symbolically 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 serve to empower us, embody our prayers or petitions, clarify our intentions, strengthen inner resources and embolden our voices through freedom of expression.  They are tangible objects of hope and healing and reflect our choices, as we move through grief toward growth and new life.


Wisdom Bowls...the inner journey of healing / Continuing Bonds Meditation


Sharon will share a powerful tool for mending what has been shattered through loss in Wisdom Bowls...the inner journey of healing.  She offers you a transformational experience through guided imagery, the creation of a form that reflects your old story and new story, and the healing opportunity of sharing and being witnessed in the profound expression of Self.  Come prepared to experience the silent place in your heart, access a personal image reflecting your inner wisdom, create, share and heal.  Only your willingness required!


90 minute: Wisdom Bowls…the inner journey of healing


Guided imagery and inner journey experience             40 minutes


Create your personal Wisdom Bowl                             10 minutes


Share you Wisdom Bowls and old and new story         30 minutes


Clean up and complete evaluation forms                      10 minutes


Educational Objectives:


1.  Understand the use of guided imagery in the process of healing.


2.  Understand how a meditative practice support the "continuing bonds" with the deceased, an important part of the healing process as noted in Worden's Task Model of Bereavement.


3.  Understand how a permanent and tangible record of an old and new story, helps the bereaved in their sense making process as noted in Neimeyer's grief and bereavement of meaning  reconstruction.


Materials Needed:


I will need chairs set up in a circle.


I will need a table set up for art supplies.


I will need a CD player.


I will provide paper, colored pencils and markers


Soul gatherings… Continuing Bonds Meditation


            The Soul gatherings experience arises out of stillness and offers an opportunity to participate in a circle with the intention to quiet the mind, open the heart and listen. The foundation of the circle is based on the belief that consciousness continues to exist after the physical death of the body. As spiritual beings in human form, we share the ability of inner seeing, hearing, knowing and sensing. You are invited into a safe and sacred circle with the intention to engage your intuitive gifts, connect with those in spirit and heal.


90 minute:  Soul gatherings….


Introduction                                                                10 minutes


Grounding and Guided Experience                            20 minutes


Sharing                                                                       10 minutes


Stillness Experience                                                    15 minutes


Sharing                                                                        30 minutes


Closing                                                                           5 minutes