How creating art is helping the dying and bereaved at Ashgate Hospicecare

The partner of a patient cared for at Ashgate Hospicecare has told how a creative art project helped her deal with the grief of losing her loved one. 

Jackie Waring received ‘warm and comforting care’ during the last 11 days of her life at the North Derbyshire hospice, after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and having a stroke.  

Her partner, Sarah Thomas, who volunteered at Ashgate’s events prior to the pandemic, sayAshgate allowed Jackie to “get peace out of what was her chaos and enabled her to have the best death possible.” 

Following Jackie’s death on 7th April 2017aged 60, Sarah decided to attend the hospice’s Art at Ashgate programme in early 2020, which was funded thanks to a generous grant from Arts Council England. 

The project was developed in partnership with Chesterfield-based arts charity Junction Arts and saw two resident artists work with Ashgate Hospicecare to support patients and families touched by Ashgate. 

Sarah was of more than 200 participants to join in with the sessions with professional artists Fi Burke and Miriam Robinson, who helped to integrate the arts and creative outcomes into the care provided by the hospice. 

She said: “The greatest surprise from attending the sessions was the benefit I got from doing an activity that I wouldn’t normally have used to explore my feelings. This helped me get through the grief of losing Jackie. 

We started by drawing the cup we were drinking from and the artist, Fi, tasked us with producing a picture of it, which was even a credit to me – someone who hano artistic skills.  

“The group then moved on to drawing teddy bears which I felt was beyond my abilities, but the artist motivated me to examine how I felt just after had lost Jackie compared to now. 

“The fact that I have kept my artwork says a great deal about what I found beneficial – I was able to progress from a tight dull picture at the beginning to one that had more colour and was free with no border.  

“This enabled me to realise that although I still miss Jackie terribly, I have enabled myself to work through my initial grief so I can appreciate that life can be fun again.” 

The workshops were initially held at the hospice’s Old Brampton site and across its communityDue to the pandemic, from July onwards Miriam’s sessions took place virtuallybut were still a huge success with patients and families across the North Derbyshire community.  

The work of everyone who was involved with the Art at Ashgate project is now being showcased in an online exhibition comprising of photographs and videos. 

Jane Wells, Projects Co-ordinator at Junction Arts, has also agreed to create an installation at the hospice featuring original artwork from the residencies.  

Arlene Honeyman, Head of Supportive Care at Ashgate Hospicecare, said: “At Ashgate Hospicecare we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to support patients and families beyond the care they receive on our Inpatient Unit and in the community. And with opportunities for end-of-life patients to engage with the arts being very limited, we wanted to make it accessible to everyone connected with Ashgate. 

“The aim of the Art at Ashgate project was to help our patients, their families and friends to work with professional artists to provide meaningful art experiences and help support them through whatever they may be going through, whether it be grief after losing a loved one or for someone coming to terms with a recent palliative care diagnosis. 

“Being involved in the Arts together benefits our patients by giving them an opportunity to engage creatively and also provides a positive distraction and focus, rather than overthinking their situation or bereavement. I’m delighted that the project was so successful and can’t thank our wonderful artists Miriam and Fi enough for their support with the project.” 

The work of everyone who was involved with the Art at Ashgate project is now being showcased in an online exhibition comprising of photographs and videos. 

Jane Wells, Projects Co-ordinator at Junction Arts, has also agreed to create an installation at the hospice featuring original artwork from the residencies. 

To watch the video and see some of the Art at Ashgate work that was produced by those who took part go to https://junctionarts.org/community-projects/art-at-ashgate/ 

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