Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

MAE - Master of Arts in Expressive Therapies


Expressive Therapies


Dr. Rebecca Zarate


Approximately 5.3 million youth in the United States have experienced the death of a sibling or parent. They face challenges such as an increased risk of depression, anxiety, substance use, and other detrimental effects on adjustment. A small subset of this population experiences significant emotional and behavioral difficulties, characterized by an inability to function in major life roles, a preoccupation with the loss, and separation distress. Modern grief literature describes meaning-making as an adaptive coping process contributing to a sense of renewed hope and self-efficacy and a reduction in distressing grief symptomology. Expressive arts therapy is an effective way to explore meaning-making processes. For this thesis, the researcher developed and implemented an expressive arts therapy method to understand how the arts impact meaning-making at a community bereavement center. The participants were twelve children who had experienced the death of a sibling or a parent. They were males and females, between the ages of eight and fifteen. Ten identified as white/Caucasian, one as Chinese, and one as other / mixed race. The researcher observed participants engaged in meaning-making processes through visual artistic expression. Through artistic and qualitative inductive analysis, the primary themes identified were active creation, moving forward, feeling stuck, non-verbal expression, seeking connection, oscillation, deep emotion, and yearning. These findings support the capacity of expressive arts therapy to inspire meaning-making processes in bereaved youth. This phenomenological study supports continued empirical research on expressive arts therapy with bereaved youth.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.




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