- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Donna Rupert has explored different avenues to work through grief after her 21-year-old son, Parker, died in December 2015 from injuries in an ATV crash.

Grief is an ongoing process for Rupert; her husband, Jim; and their two younger children, Jenna and Donovan.

“I have been seeking to help us get through that,” Donna Rupert said. “Sometimes, it’s things we do together as a family, and sometimes, it’s just something I have to do for myself.”

From her research, Rupert learned that many people benefit from art therapy to deal with emotions that arise from grief, post-traumatic stress disorder or other trauma.

After unsuccessfully searching for a counselor who may offer art therapy locally, Rupert touched base with Julie Blackburn, a licensed clinical professional counselor and a registered art therapist from the south suburbs of Chicago.

After speaking with Rupert, Blackburn agreed to host an art therapy workshop for grieving parents from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Quincy Art Center, 1515 Jersey.

Blackburn said art therapy is not just creating art for relaxation or fun.

“The idea is to have them start to experience what is that power of art therapy in a safe environment,” she said. “The goal is to do three to four experientials using a variety of different media.

“We’re going to play with some of these different media and see what might fit for them. What do they like? Why don’t they like it? What’s the purpose of doing that? And give them some insight as to what they can use if they are having a bad day or if they are angry.”

Rupert knows there are many parents in the area who have lost a child, whether from an accident, disease or suicide.

“I thought of all the parents just like me who are trying to find ways to cope with the death of a child, which is very unique,” she said. “I’ve had parents pass away, grandparents pass away, a class friend, but the death of a child is completely different. You will grieve the loss of your child forever.”

Rupert said she has struggled with ‘why’ questions after the loss of Parker and with being a parent to her two other children.

“It’s very hard to parent your living children after you have a child who died because then you get those thoughts: ‘Does it really matter if they do their homework?’ or ‘Am I pushing them too hard, or am I not pushing them enough?’” Rupert said. “You really kind of question your parenting after an experience like that.”

Blackburn said art therapy is effective in dealing with grief and loss.

“When emotions are really intense, we don’t always know what to do with that, and we usually don’t have a lot experiences that have these really intense emotions, either,” she said. “We really need to start to understand them. Through the art therapy, you can really start to identify it.”

No previous art experience is required for the workshop.

“I encourage anyone to try art therapy because it breaks down some of those barriers,” Blackburn said. “We do a lot of work on what someone is putting into an image.”

The workshop costs $60, and all art supplies are provided. Seating is limited to 25 participants.

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/2kSvN5o

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com


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