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Beauty From Broken Glass

IHF Seeds 2023

Roscommon Young Carers Project supports young people aged between eight and twenty-one who provide a primary or secondary caring role to a family member at home. This can be a parent, sibling, grandparent or indeed anyone within their extended family who has a disability, illness, mental health challenge, and / or physical injury. This can also include caring for foster siblings. 

Project Coordinator, Faye Hayden, has a wealth of experience in youth work, spanning over 25 years, and is also a carer herself. Hence, Faye understands the challenges – emotional and practical – along with multiple losses that present for young carers day-to-day. These losses can take various forms, such as reduced time / engagement with parents, loss of opportunities for involvement in ‘typical’ family activities, loss of education, loss of financial security, loss of security of home-life, particularly when siblings or other family members experience life threatening conditions, and in some cases bereavement.  

Faye used their Seed Grant to run a wonderful Beauty from Broken Glass project. The overall aim of this project was to help young carers better understand losses and the potential harm they can experience while caring for a family member. But more, much more, it was intended to show other people just what being a young carer involves. As Faye told us: 

“Our overarching goal was to shine a light on the life of young carers, offering those without experience of this role an insight into how this can impact the every-day lives of young people, especially given they’re often grappling with anticipatory grief caused by living in a household with a person who has a life limiting condition and therefore a reduced life expectancy.” 

In addition, this project was aimed at incorporating the transition from the darkness of grief towards the light of growth, healing, and recovery. As such, it was equally intended as a gradual restorative project, both for the individual young carer and their families, and run over three phases. 

Phase One – Grief and Growth Jars 

Guided by Emily Cuddy Beninghove, a trauma informed Art Psychotherapist, the group initially created  Grief Jars as a safe communication tool using various artworks they created as a way to tell others what they grieve for and how caring makes them feel. While making these Grief Jars, Emily helped them explore what often causes them sadness, confusion, and a sense of loss.  In response to the Grief Jars, the group then developed Growth Jars. While doing so, they were encouraged to explore and identify ways to find joy within their family life. The intention was to help them move towards an acceptance of their grief and losses, with a view to then progressing towards healing and recovery as a means of embracing their ‘normal’ life.  

Phase Two – Stained Glass 

Local stained-glass artist Colette Langan then engaged with the group  to create a stained-glass piece for display in the community. The goal while doing so was to give each young carer an opportunity to explore their personal feelings around loss and grief, and how it impacts both them and their wider family.  Emphasis was placed on this being very much a personal process, with no right or wrong way to grieve and has no set time period for when it should end. An equally important twin goal was to develop an understanding for how grief caused by a bereavement does not signify the end of their own life. Rather, it can mark change and the start of a journey to a new normality that, although different, can still bring joy in various ways. 

Phase 3 – Family Day  

These stained-glass pieces were displayed at a family day in April. As well as sports, face painting, games and crafts, the individual pieces were also soldered into a single glass window by the young carers and their families. Framed photographs of the original stained glass pieces made by the young carers were also presented to each of them for taking home as a symbolic reminder, both for them and their families, that all sorts of beauty can come from broken glass. 

Watch a short video of the Family Day:

About Roscommon Young Carers Project Download