Dying Matters- Poetry for Wellbeing

‘Being part of the sessions has allowed me to express my feelings, open up and give me more confidence in how I see things’

Day therapy unit - patient participant

In 2018 we began a project called Dying Matters, a partnership between Hear My Voice through Barnsley Museums, Barnsley Hospice, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Creative Minds, and The Shawlands Trust. The project was a series of poetry workshops held in Barnsley Hospice for staff, patients and their families, facilitated by Diane Hinchliffe. Diane is an independent Emotional Health & Wellbeing Practitioner who utilises creative methods to engage individuals and groups. Diane brings her skills as a therapist into the creative space, thus providing the added value of a therapeutic environment to support individual wellbeing.

The aims of the project were to give those living with a life-limiting illness and their families a voice, using creative techniques as a means of enabling this. The project hoped to encourage people to talk about their lives and share their stories, exploring thoughts and feelings through poetry and sharing this with others. An important aim was to improve the holistic wellbeing of patients, carers and their families and to train Barnsley Hospice and SWYPFT staff in recognising and understanding the important contribution that using creative techniques has in enabling conversations. The project also aimed to support the wellbeing of staff to encourage conversations about death and dying, and coping with their work.

‘I am so pleased I was a participant in this project, it has given me a completely different view of poetry and how it can be used to gain people’s confidence, enabling them to share emotions, feelings, fears about their lives, a very holistic approach to engaging people.

I feel privileged to have been part of this project not just because of the skills it has provided me with but, to see the pride in group participants relating to the finished book of poems’.

Staff team member – Barnsley Hospice

The outcomes of the project include; increased skills, knowledge and understanding of staff - supporting their confidence in introducing creative ways of engaging patients and their families in difficult conversations – dying matters. Participants feel they have a voice about concerns important to them, it has improved wellbeing of those involved and a poetry anthology has been produced as a legacy of the project and as a tool to engage in more conversations in the future.

The resulting poetry anthology was called ‘My words’. It has been described by patients and staff as: ‘Moving; thought provoking; beautiful; a meaningful collection – with a lovely balance of feelings and humour; incredible’.

You can download it using the link below.

The anthology brings together a selection of group and individual poetry created over the course of the project, alongside photography, to give a visual representation to the words.  A small group of patients and staff worked alongside Diane Hinchliffe and Gavin Joynt Photography to select poems which they felt gave a sense of the breadth of the work.  To be part of this process has generated a further sense of achievement to the patient group involved. The anthology was launched during Dying Matters Week 2019 and has offered a contribution to the hospice through its sales.