Benjamin Franklin famously said “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, and although many a conversation can be had about taxes few of us like to talk about death, especially our own. Willow Wood has decided to confront this very real issue by constructing our own ‘Elephant in the Room’.
The sometimes uncomfortable truth is that everyone will die. Some of us will reach that day sooner than others and it can be difficult to come to terms with that fact. It can also be very difficult to talk about death, whether you are facing your own mortality or that of a loved one.
Nicky Byrne, Willow Wood’s day services lead, chose to tackle this head-on. “We see how hard it can be for our patients and their families and friends to articulate their thoughts and feelings about something that is inevitable. It really is such a huge thing that’s being ignored, it’s a perfect example of an Elephant in the Room. So we decided to use this imagery and construct a papier mache elephant in our START Clinic Arts & Crafts sessions.
“The elephant is hollow and the perfect repository for anyone who wants to write down their feelings. It can be so much easier to do this than to speak about them, yet it can have the same benefit in that once feelings are out in the open we can start to work through them, and towards acceptance”.
The brightly coloured elephant stands in the day services lounge, and anyone can contribute their thoughts or read other messages. Modelled on Elmo the patchwork elephant, many of the squares have the word ‘death’ written on in a variety of different languages so there can be no mistaking what this particular elephant in the room is all about.
Nicky said “It’s a great talking point, and by approaching the subject from such an oblique angle, makes it easier for people to have those discussions, to share our feelings and to support each other.”
Our START Clinic is open to those in our community with life-limiting illnesses and you don’t need a medical referral to attend. If you think that you, or someone you know, may benefit from our services, please ring 0161 330 1100 and ask to be put through to START, or find out more at www.willowwood.info.
Photo: Nicky Byrne with the Elephant in the Room.