Grieving and Mourning–A Praying in Color Lesson Plan

Apr 21, 2020

Guest blogger Mary Ann Stafford is an artist, an educator, a musician, a writer, and a mother of eight children with 25 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren! At 87, she describes herself as an over-achiever. Her complete bio at the bottom of this post confirms this!

Mary Ann started using praying in color to mourn and pray when her husband of sixty years died. Even before his death, she had felt God calling her to facilitate a grief support group for those who had lost loved ones. She began this mission at her church and at the local senior center.  Although not a registered grief counselor, she has been blessed with facilitation training as a teacher and administrator as well as being a Stephen Minister at her church.

She learned and studied many different “coping skills” to help people with their mourning—ways to accept and get through the pain however long it takes.  Examples include writing in a journal, talking about it with others who have been through the same process, walking outdoors, exercise, reading and art therapy- any way to get the hurt out in the open instead of holding it inside.  Praying in color exercises seemed to fit right in, so she adapted some of the methods to use with her grief groups. “These were much appreciated by the members, especially since they could come back to their prayer doodles anytime in the present and/or future to see their reconciliation progress,” said Mary Ann.

Mary Ann has graciously agreed to share one of her lessons. This first lesson plan called Making A Memory Map involves thinking and praying about beloved memories of those who’ve lost loved ones.  She calls it a “memory map.” Below is an example of a “memory map” and a guide for leading a grief session In Mary Ann’s words. Before you share the idea with a group, do it on your own several times. New memories will pop up each time you do it.
Making a Memory Map
 by Mary Ann Stafford

I’m going to introduce a different way to pray as well as a way to mourn your loved ones.  It’s commonly known that drawing and painting are ways to conquer stress, lower blood pressure, and express emotions. It’s also fun!  The idea originally came by reading Praying in Color – a book by Sybil MacBeth that uses doodling with colors as a prayer experience.

Here’s what you need to know:  Approach it with an open mind – you don’t have to be an artist – just “play” with colors. You don’t have to be an artist – you’re not replicating anything. IT’S THE PROCESS, NOT THE PRODUCT – THINK OF IT AS JUST DOODLING!  NO RIGHT OR WRONG –

THINK LIKE A CHILD:  As it says in Mark 10:15, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

You can do this at home as well – in the morning or evening in your prayer spot. Only simple supplies are needed: even just with black or blue ink pens and paper.  Do this in your journal, or on any kind of paper.


SHOW MY EXAMPLE: Above is one of my examples. I started with the words “Precious Memories” instead of my husband’s name, but that made no difference. I could have continued on and on – there were lots of memories. I seem to always start in the middle, but you don’t have to do that.  Start anywhere on the paper and take your time.


START WITH THE NAME OF YOUR LOVED ONE SOMEWHERE IN THE CENTER: Make a shape around the name – any kind of shape – pray about him/her, and think about him/her as you do – embellish with some detail – enhance the shape as you pray for his/her soul – add colors that you like.

THINK ABOUT THE MEMORIES YOU HAVE: – Something you always want to remember – write a brief note, make another shape, either connected to the first or separately and decorate it with colors.  Keep going with more memories until the paper is filled, you run out of memories or time. Thank God as you go for these beautiful memories you never want to forget.

When finished, turn your drawing over and write the date on the back.  Then you can come back to it time and time again to relive those blessed memories.

CALL TIME AFTER 20 MINUTES:  Share your drawing and the memories with the others.  What colors did you use? How is your pattern different from others in the group?  What other ways could this process be used? Listing what you’re grateful for? Your gifts and abilities to use for others? Your shortcomings, dreams, worries?


Here are a couple of other examples of Mary Ann’s memory maps. Thanks to Mary Ann for these ideas.

Mary Ann Stafford’s Bio:
Dr. Mary Ann Stafford is a highly recognized artist who resides in Maumelle, Arkansas. Her education credentials include a BSE and an MA degree in English; art hours from Kansas City Art Institute and the UofA, and an EdD in Secondary Education with an emphasis in art education. She began the art program at Pine Bluff High School where she taught English and art, later becoming assistant principal.  She retired from the Arkansas Department of Education.  In addition to formal art training, Stafford has continued to take and teach art workshops.  She is a Signature member of the Pastel Society of the Southwest, Arkansas Pastel Society, Arkansas League of Artists, and Mid-Southern Watercolorists.  As a regular exhibitor, she has won major awards in Arkansas and Texas.  Her paintings are in private collections in Arkansas and several other states.  Her web site is; her teaching blog is at



  1. Thank you for sharing this technique. I have facilitated a bereavement group for 20 years and I’m excited to use this along with journal writing which I have used.

  2. Hi, could you tell me more about this and if you teach classes.
    Thank you,


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