Finding solace in art

Finding solace in art

On warm summer Friday afternoons, a group of guests at Allied Services Hospice Center in Scranton spend time with their loved ones in a unique way.

Carrying newspaper-wrapped canvases, participants of the Good Grief Art program gather on the back porch overlooking the garden. As they walk past the front table, they collect a palette containing an array of oil-based colors, and choose their brushes wisely.

To an outsider, this may this may look like any other art class. However, there is something much deeper going on here.

One-by-one, as students unveil their art, surrounding classmates marvel at the progress made. Just a few short weeks ago these canvases were blank. Now they serve as stages for memories of passed loved ones to play out.

Instructor and lifelong artist Marylou Chibirka has created a warm, nurturing environment that uses creativity to help people who have suffered loss.

Upon starting the class, students are prompted to choose a photo of a deceased loved one on which to base their artwork. Each session, the class is guided in completing another step in finalizing their piece while engaging in dialogue with fellow grieving students, and occasionally even enjoying visits by special guests.

The class allows students to process their raw, unfiltered emotions in a supportive environment. By the end of the ten-week course, not only do students have a beautiful self-made portrait of their loved one, but they have also sought acceptance and peace in their loss.

Dalton, PA native, Marylou Chibirka, graduated from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with degrees in Painting and Art History. She went on to continue her studies with various artists and at the Arts Students League in New York City, thus launching her career as a professional artist. She has been commissioned to paint almost 300 portraits since.

Well known for her ability to “capture more than a likeness of the person, but something of the individual’s essence,” there could not be a better person than Chibirka to help bring students’ memories of their loved ones to life.

Good Grief Art was launched in 2015 and is provided and paid for by Jennings-Calvey Funeral and Cremation Services, Inc. which has been recognized for its efforts by receiving the National Pursuit of Excellence Award in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

To learn more about Good Grief Art and other programs offered by Allied Services Hospice contact Megan Cerco at or 570-340-6487.

Woman painting a portrait of a woman