Marcelo Sánchez-Camus (St. Christopher’s Hospice, UK). Facing Death Creatively

The presentation will show how art interventions with people who are under hospice end of life care become an alternate language with which to discuss fear of death. Working as a community artists at a large hospice in South London and as part of a larger Arts Team with art therapists, music therapists, and dramatherapist the arts are used as method of communication around topics of death and dying. The fear of the unknown combined with the lack of concrete evidence of what happens after death (other than physical decomposition) leaves many people at the end of their lives facing death without traditional rituals to help them psychologically and emotionally cope with their end of life status. The factors that patients used to establish power and presence as a defense mechanism in life fail and leave the person vulnerable and afraid (Becker 2011). The arts become a way of redefining oneself at the end of life and rebuilding a new resilience in the face of death.

The presentation will examine how patients both face death and look back at life, reassessing what they have done up until that point. The fear associated with death is not only of the impending unknown but also the fear of living a life without meaning or purpose. Various case studies of patients will demonstrate how fear around both the life lived and the dying process are confronted creatively, and how the arts can be used to deal with the trauma of dying and ameliorate the anxiety of the end of life. Health as one of the most important human resources to a stable life, and when this stability is gone it is replaced by anxiety (Furer, Walker, Stein 2007). Replacing that anxiety with resilience becomes one of the key interventions of the arts in end of life. The paper will examine how even through denial we may all carry a fear of death and what may be the ways to face this fear through creativity.

List of References:

Becker E. The Denial of Death. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Furer P. Walker J. Stein M. Treating Health Anxiety and Fear of Death. New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2007.