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Remembering in a Time of Change (Dublin)

by Mary Grehan, Children’s Health Ireland

Right now a new children’s hospital is being built on the grounds of St James’s Hospital, a world class facility that will look after children and young people in need of specialist and complex care.

Integrated into this development is the CHI Arts in Health Programme which is based on the growing understanding of the positive and transformative impact that arts experiences can have on children and young people in paediatric settings and on families and staff.  

Experience has shown that many parents feel the need to revisit the place of loss after the death of a child, sometimes for many years after that death. Each of the current CHI hospitals have their own approach to supporting bereaved parents in this regard. Now, as the Dublin paediatric hospitals amalgamate and prepare for the move to the new hospital, there is a real need to collectively consider how CHI as an organisation can best support bereaved families and staff. With a move to the new site at St. James imminent, there is a need to begin a vital conversation that is responsive and compassionate and that addresses the leaving behind of these original sites of loss. Art in all its forms can play a role in offering reassurance at this uncertain time. It can open the door to a dialogue which says, in a tangible way, that your grief and loss has a place in this space.  

As a first stage in this, CHI is working with artist Marie Brett on how to make a space for grief, loss and remembering within the new built environment and as an ongoing function of the CHI community. Visitors to hospital read implicit messages about the organisation from the built environment – who is behind it and what their values are. Visitors may feel that they belong in a space or they feel excluded from it. This is further amplified when the original site of loss is also lost.  

Marie will make a podcast based on six interviews with key people reflecting particular perspectives about the need to create a safe space for remembering loss, including representatives of the palliative team, including a newly appointed End of Life Co-ordinator, pastoral care team and families who have lost a child who was a patient of CHI.  

The podcast, while an end in itself, is also a beginning. It will form part of a brief to artists / landscapers, funders and CHI to create a space in the new hospital that brings solace to grieving loved ones by saying ‘your child is remembered here.’ It will recognise that grief has no schedule and the experience of loss is an integral part of good healthcare.  

This project will consider ways to protect an enduring space for remembering in the new children’s hospital and in the CHI calendar long into the future.  It will be the catalyst for an interdisciplinary working group that supports death, dying and remembering in CHI. The design and delivery of this project will bring a practical focus to the collaborative effort of this group.  

Marie Brett is a collaborative, socially engaged visual artist working across filmic, immersive sculptural installation and site responsive live event, making work about profound human experiences including loss and trauma.