Art in the Face of Death: Art Therapy With a Family

by Lindsay Joy Hamilton

This thesis explores the nature of practicing art therapy with a family facing the terminal illness of one of the members; and seeks to discover where in lies the meaning and value of making and sharing art during the intense moments of losing as loved one. The thesis will offer a literature review of terminal illness, the impact of child development, specific approaches to families in crisis and relative bereavement theory for the clinical and research approaches employed. The family will be introduced followed by five art therapy session descriptions accompanied by client artwork. As a form of data collection, analysis, and as a method to enhance meaning a/r/tography was utilized in the form of a retrospective case study art exhibition. Art works and poetry written in response to the practicum experience have been included as a part of the data. The a/r/tography inquiry was validated by the response art of colleagues which is part of the data collection. Through applying a wholistic approach to thematic analysis of all the data collected, three themes emerge; the universal and existential experience of death and dying; the impulse to be in relationship with another; and art as an indestructible container for suffering.