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Anna: Draw It Out

Draw It Out was the soothing tool Anna needed for reflection and growth.

At age nine Anna suffered an unspeakable tragedy: the loss of a sibling.

Anna’s baby sister died at just one hour old, a traumatic experience that left her shocked and grief-stricken. A shy and introverted third-grader, Anna began experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. Her nights were restless and attending school became increasingly difficult.

Michele Koger, MA, LMFT is an Art Therapist at The Healing Center, and specializes in patients who have experienced loss. She worked with Anna for several months after the death of her sister. To supplement Anna’s therapy, Michele used Draw It Out, an interactive and therapeutic activity book for children made by Art with Heart.

Using Draw It Out allowed Michele to easily tailor therapeutic exercises for Anna, who was dealing with a unique type of loss.

“I like that Draw It Out is general enough that it speaks to any kind of loss,” said Michele. “I really appreciate that.”

As a particularly sensitive young girl, Anna was severely inhibited by her grief. She found it difficult to understand her feelings and communicate them. Draw It Out was the soothing tool she needed for reflection and growth.

“It was really helpful to go back and look at [the book], whereas if it were just in her head, she couldn’t go back and get a larger picture of how much she had grown or what she was feeling,” said Michele. “She could see how her thoughts and feelings had changed. It was like a roadmap for her.”

When Anna noticed that her younger sister was dealing with the loss of their baby sibling in a different way, the book helped emphasize that her unique feelings were not only acceptable, but that they were good. Draw It Out gave her something visible to illustrate her individuality. She felt validated.

An activity within the book Anna loved in particular was the mandala drawings—a symbol with origins in Hinduism. Having traveled in the past with her family to India, the mandalas connected her with that special experience. The drawings ended up being an important part of healing and re-connecting with her loved ones. At a birthday party she had during her months of therapy, she asked for mandala coloring pages for her and her friends to do together.

“She was able to integrate that not just as a tool for self-soothing and dealing with grief, but as something she could share with her friends,” explained Michele. “It became something of joy and pleasure not just related to her loss.”

After several months of therapy and using Draw It Out, there was a significant shift in Anna. She didn’t have as much difficulty sleeping at night or anxiety about going to school. She was even able to talk to her mom and teacher about the sadness she had. Through the book’s creative exercises she had gained a better understanding of what she was feeling and why.

Said Michele, “Art is a way to reach places that are often hidden.”

Learn more about the books and programs Art with Heart offers to help children like Anna heal. To help transform children in need, make a contribution to Art with Heart today.

NOTE: To protect the identity of the child, the image does not necessarily match the story.