Grief Paint Night:Therapy Through Art

On Friday, Nov. 4, Wilson College held it’s first Grief Paint Night. Painting is a common form of counseling that helps people express their emotions, especially when it can be hard to express them. The Grief Night at Wilson was sponsored by the Wilson College Counseling Center and by the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation, represented by Allison Mahon, Drew’s Hope Facilitator and Guidance Counselor.

The Drew Michael Taylor Foundation provides education and support to families and individuals grieving the loss of a loved one. A grief and loss support program known as Drew’s Hope provides children, teenagers and adults with the support and education needed during the grieving process and has locations in Shippensburg and Greencastle, Pa.

The event took place from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. in Laird Hall. Children were not permitted to attend this event so babysitters were provided. Cindy Shoemaker, the Director of Wilson College Counseling, explained that since it was such a serious matter, event organizers wanted the adults to focus on the painting and, most importantly, to focus on grieving. Amanda Dunn ‘17, an art student, was at the event to walk the participants through the painting process. Dunn is an art major but plans to pursue a Master’s in Counseling Degree through art therapy which made her a perfect fit for the event.

Photo provided by Cindy Shoemaker

The participants drew a blue butterfly, which is a symbol of hope. Dunn instructed the participants step by step during the painting process. She explained that one of the hardest parts of teaching was reminding people that the program is not about how well they could paint, but about grieving and the meaning of their work. As an art student, Dunn expressed that people are often too focused on their art work being perfect.

Those attending were not asked to identify the source of their grief. According to Shoemaker, many college students are dealing with some kind of loss. She had been working to address the need for grieving within the community for about a year. A grief paint night was the perfect idea. “If you can find an activity that is fun but, yet meaningful,” stated Shoemaker, “Well that’s probably the best combination.”

Both Shoemaker and Dunn considered Paint Night to be a success. “It was a good first experience,” explained Dunn, “I would rule it as a success.”

The Counseling Center staff will consider holding a similar event, especially since the statistics of college students dealing with loss are high. For those who have experienced loss or would like to talk someone about grieving, the Counseling Center staff is available to help. The Drew Michael Taylor Foundation has programs available to help with the grieving process. For more information, visit

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