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Art Therapy Helps Children Cope With Tragedy

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A loved one dying is a difficult time for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for children, who often don’t have the words or emotional maturity to deal with their grief.

But kids still need a way to cope with their grief after the death of someone close.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, therapists have found one way to help children cope, and that’s art.

Whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpture or any other medium, it’s always been a powerful way to express emotion without words.

“It allows them to take the pain and to take the sadness, take the frustration, take the questions, and put it outside of themselves,” art therapist Mary Gambarony said, “and that’s very healing in itself to get it out of you, put it on something objective in front of you and be able to look at it.”

Gambarony works at the Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, N.J., where children of various ages are producing art that’s colorful and plain to express themselves.

Regardless of its presentation, they’re all symbols of loss and pain that children often have trouble expressing. The art gives voice to their grief.

In one session, Dillon, Amanda and Breanna Betts coped with the loss of their beloved grandfather after he died from a long battle with prostate cancer.

“It helped me express my feelings. Some things I didn’t want to talk about and art helped me,” 12-year-old Amanda Betts said.

Even adults have trouble dealing with the death’s many emotions like grief, anger or guilt.

Children have the added burden of not having the right words and being a part of a group that has rarely experienced loss.

“Like in school, you can talk about certain things with your friends,” 14-year-old Breanna Betts said. “There were certain things that I didn’t want to talk to people about so I just took it out in my paintings and my drawings and my clay models.”

The children’s art therapy has even helped their mother deal with her loss.

“It made me realize that I know how sad I am and how much I’m hurting and how equally they are grieving and dealing with what’s going on,” Dawn Betts said.

Art therapy isn’t necessarily for artists either. The program is about letting your emotions come out through the art in any way possible.

It puts the focus on doing something, anything other than the pain, which can help in the healing process.

Art can be therapeutic even without grief, according to some studies.

Studies have shown that just the process of making art can lower your blood pressure.

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