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Drawing: a tool to aid grieving children

The death of a loved one causes boys and girls to undergo a set of emotions that frequently lead them to have difficulties in properly distinguishing and managing them. In previous articles, we have mentioned some activities that may help express these emotions, such as watching movies, reading books or the memory box.

These activities are emotional call-outs: they aid children to express and interpret their emotions in a way that is easy for them to control.

In addition, for adults related to these grieving minors, these activities are really useful to learn their emotional state, how they are managing these emotions and if it is necessary to take action on the matter. Hence, they help us to teach them how to manage those emotions, assist us in talking to them about how to manage them. We are there so that they do not feel misunderstood or to detect irregularities that require professional help.

Drawing during a child’s grieving process 

One of these facilitating activities is drawing. We can ask our son or daughter to draw the deceased person, their memories with them, how they imagine they are in Heaven (depending on the religious beliefs of the family), to draw the family before and after death , how was the burial or the funeral… in short, everything that comes to mind that they can draw in relation to death.

Actually, what they draw about is not as important for emotional expression as the fact that they draw. Why is drawing such a good medium for our boys and girls to express what they feel?


Benefits of drawing in child psychology

First of all, it is a seemingly harmless medium. Boys and girls probably spend a lot of time drawing, both at school and at home, either out of pleasure or boredom. It is an activity that they enjoy from a very young age.

If, after the death of someone close to us, we adults sit down to talk to them about how they are doing, it is very possible that we will give rise to an uncomfortable situation (although it is very important to talk to them often and we insist a lot that you do so, at first It is easy). However, if we ask them to draw it, the situation will not be so tense and it will not cause them so much rejection at first.

Drawing as a tool to express emotions

Secondly, the drawing does not have the ties that language has. When we ask a minor to express an emotion that they feel through speech or writing, there are certain strings attached. We need a word to describe what we feel. Perhaps the word that comes closest is “sadness”, but what we feel at that moment does not exactly fit what we understand by sadness.

In the drawing we do not find that type of imbalance: we try to capture what we feel in the way we feel it. It is more “free” in the sense that it does not have to be understood, but simply expressed. Furthermore, not only is the result important (what is drawn and how), but during the process, boys and girls explore and express what they feel in an indirect and controlled way.

How to handle childhood grief

When they have finished it, we can also ask them to explain the drawing to us, as well as what they feel or think when they see it. Thus, drawing becomes an easy activity to do with children that helps them to elaborate and express emotions after the death of a loved one. It does not matter if they do not draw well, the important part is to get them to draw.

To find out more about child-youth grief assistance, you can visit our free Child Grief Psychotherapy service, request our free informative lectures which are aimed at parents and teachers at your school (part of this project) or download our free practical guide “Let’s Talk About Grief”, which offers guidelines to help adults talk about death with children and gives clues on how children experience grief according to their age.


It also includes a section on how to deal with grief in schools and how to help people with intellectual disabilities cope with grief. The guide is available for free download on our website: