Listening with one's eyes- Blending Expressive Arts in Group-Work with Bereaved Children

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Presentation at Binnational Conference for Treating Traumatized Children …

Presentation at Binnational Conference for Treating Traumatized Children

Words are important but they may also get into the way, especially in the aftermath of
trauma, experience beyond words.
The use of non- verbal means was originally introduced in order to cross cultural and
language barriers, using the universal language of images and symbols.
Our experience shows that artwork provides a means for processing information and
containing strong emotions as well as a way of weaving together a narrative out of
disrupted parts of life (and self)

I am going to ask you here to listen with your eyes (and heart) to stories waiting
to be told....

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  • 1. Listening with One’s Eyes -- Blending Expressive Arts in Group-Work with Bereaved ChildrenEleanor Pardess, SELAH- Israel Crisis Management CenterBinnational Conference for Treating Traumatized Children 30.6.2002
  • 2. Bereavement following Violent Death• Children who have lost a parent, sibling, or another relative through violent circumstances are more likely to develop complicated grief compounded with posttraumatic stress reactions, which are often overlooked and underestimated.• These often “forgotten mourners” bear the heavy burden of dealing with their own grief as well as that of parents and other family members (Silverman, 2000; Sandler,1998; Dyregrov, 1991)• The ability to construct a trauma narrative and feeling understood are protective factors (Neimeyer, 2000) ©
  • 3. Art and Working Through Trauma• The expressive arts provide a vehicle for processing information, containing strong emotions and enhancing self regulation• Use of imagery directed to right brain, speaking the ”language of trauma”• Using multiple modalities can open lines of communication and support narrative construction ©
  • 4. A Modular Approach to Groupwork Narrative Solution Adventure Wilderness Approach Focused Therapy Training• The Expressive Arts and Making the Invisible Visible• Group Process Made Visible (Riley, 2001)• Grief and the Healing Arts ( Bertman, 1999)• Managing Traumatic Stress through Art (Cohen et al, 1995) ©
  • 5. Building networks of support- An ecological perspective Communty/Culture School Family Child ©
  • 6. Stories Waiting to be Told- Illustrations from Seminars “This is the missile that blew up the plane. My father and grandmother broke into the sea. It is very cold in there and the sharks are eating them up.” (5 year old boy lost father and grandmother in Air Siberia plane crash-Oct 2001) ©
  • 7. The Intrusion of the Black “This is for my mother a present, but the black is spoiling it all” ©
  • 8. Survival in the Desert Workshop • Layers • Burnt tree • Trees in the desert • Water 10 year old girl who lost brother ©
  • 9. Group work with parents-• Parents can be helped to become aware of the subtle messages they convey , to separate their own fears from those of the child, and have their own responses validated and normalized.• Identity disruption and loss of sense of competence needs to be acknowledged.• Constructing a coherent family narrative can be facilitated through expressive arts in a way that can promote family resilience (Byng-Hall, 1995; Walsch, 2000) ©
  • 10. Between the Living and the Dead • “I am all caught up in knots of thoughts. Every part of my body, right down to my feet, is entangled in thoughts. Many of them are black thoughts. • I want to be with my husband all the time. He is always there, standing behind the empty chair. Sitting in the other chair isHusband killed 4 year old son Me my little boy. He is wearing green-the color of life. He is my hope. I know that he needs me but I am stuck in the middle, actually nowhere, not knowing who to turn to first” ©
  • 11. Between the Living and the Dead “My son was a taxi driver. You see the car severed and the baby left in the back . I am trying to keep on going somehow, for the sake of my grandchildren.” Me Baby ©
  • 12. No more music in my life Beethoven’s fifth symphony cut off ! “Fate’s strike!” “No more music in my life” (Five months after wife was killed. A musician, unable to find a job as a musician) Life continuum disrupted- divided into “before”and “after”. The loss is also the loss of one’s own self and identity. ©
  • 13. Between the Living and the Dead ” I was in the handcuffs of death. Death wanted to take me away. I didn’t feel I had the strength or will to resist. Only my granddaughter’s small hand, over the void, and the family, and the people from Selah who helped me – is pulling me back to life.” (Son killed in terrorist attack) ©
  • 14. Nourishing Memories “This is me in the center on a sled in the snow with my brother and father when they were alive. They were playing with me in the snow. We had a lot of fun.” Father died This is me in Brother died in Russia the center two years ago ©
  • 15. Discussion- Stories Waiting To Be Told• Combining the expressive arts with narrative therapy can open new possibilities for practitioners.• Art can be a valuable resource in the re-authoring of life narrative – A narrative with the child in the center.• Treating traumatic stress can pave the way to renewed access to nourishing memories, strengthening continuing bonds and restoring the “going on being”.Suggested activities- “My Book”, Look and Listen to Me”, “Journeys” ©
  • 16. Providing a safe space AVOIDANCE RE-ENACTMENT• Providing a safe space for back and forth movement and oscillation between intrusion (re-experiencing and re-enacting memories etc) and avoidance ©
  • 17. The challenge - Processing of traumatic events within thewindow of tolerancePardess/ Expressive Arts in Group-Work with Traumatized Children Binnational Conference for TreatingTraumatized Children/2002 ©
  • 18. Practical Implications • Titrate- Work in small doses • Empathy • Follow the child’s response • Listening with one’s eyes • Try various channels • Don’t forget enjoyment and play. Dare to expect miracles! “Such a tiny can and so much water” ©