Sharon Strouse: Collage Therapy to Process Grief

collage

The author of the book Artful Grief, Sharon Strouse, spoke with Dr. Gloria Horsley during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about collage therapy. “This book came out of the experience of losing my daughter to suicide in 2001. She was an artist herself.” It took a year, even in therapy, before Strouse realized she wasn’t tapping any creative means of processing her grief. She was feeling very lost, finding that traditional therapy and support groups were somewhat helpful but not the catharsis she needed to really begin healing. She found hope in collaging.

Making that first collage kick-started Strouse’s process of creating. She delved into the grief and trauma, but says, “It gave me my life back.” Collages are simple, and ultimately “just” torn pieces of paper applied to any surface. Strouse began with images in magazines. She started by sitting, asking herself, “What am I feeling now?” and letting those feelings travel through her and directly onto the page. Survivors are in fragments, too, and the organizing, grounding impact of collaging can be a very accessible project for anyone.

Putting the Pieces Back Together

Strouse recalls that after that first three-hour collaging session, she felt her nervous system begin to restore. She could breathe and sleep for the first time, deeply, since her daughter’s death. It became a critical part of her healing process. It’s been 14 years, and Strouse says she’s still creating. It’s no longer about her daughter, but about her life. It’s become a process and a tool for helping her get into the moment. Collaging is a means of expression that doesn’t necessarily have to be shared.

“The paper becomes the container,” she says, “and that’s beautiful.” Writing also became part of her process. Strouse began writing her book when it became clear collaging should be a gift for everyone. It took three years to write the book, but Strouse is adamant that she couldn’t have done it without the collaging first.

Gloria Horsley

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Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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