For some people, expressing their grief through art provides a path to healing. Providing education and support to those who are grieving due to the death of someone in their lives is the mission of Center for Hospice Care’s Life Transition Center; the After Images art bereavement counseling program offers participants a unique approach.
With an MFA from the University of Michigan and a master’s in counseling from Indiana University, Dave Labrum is uniquely qualified to lead After Images bereavement art counseling. He brought the program to CHC 17 years ago; in 2006 he developed a hardcover art book, “the hole in me since the day you died” along with Margaret Gloster. The CHC-published book shares the art and descriptions of seven program participants as they transition through the process of grieving.
Those who take part in the program create their artwork alone in the program’s studio space with Labrum’s support and guidance. As he noted, the studio is a place where they come to feel safe and are able to express their grief openly and honestly.
After participants move beyond their uncertainty in their ability to create art, they begin to experiment with materials such as oil paint sticks, pastels, and acrylic paints to create pieces that allow them to experience their emotions – often anger, guilt, sadness, and loneliness – in a new way. For a couple of hours each week, it connects them to their grief in a manageable way, which eventually allows them to transcend their experience of grief.