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'The fragility of life': New exhibition showcases artwork made by families who lost children

The exhibition deals with mental health issues during and after pregnancy,

The piece of artwork was created by a local craft group with help from some of the friends and family.
The piece of artwork was created by a local craft group with help from some of the friends and family.

A NEW EXHIBITION which focuses on pregnancy and experiences of new parents – and those who have lost children -  launches tomorrow.

The free exhibition was developed by the Health Research Board’s mother and baby clinical trial network. The aim is to highlight how “beautiful and scary, joyous and heartbreaking” the pregnancy and neonatal journey can be.

Included in the exhibition is a particularly special piece called The Children’s Remembrance Tree.

In 2016, during the Cavan and Monaghan Hospital’s Children’s Remembrance Event,  coloured beads were used as a physical symbol of the baby or child the families were there to remember.

The beads were a mixture of colour, shapes and seizes and each person entering the room took and held onto the bead throughout the service.

beads Coloured beads were used as a physical symbol of the baby or child.

After the service, the beads were collected and over the following three months were sewn onto fabric by a local craft group with help from some of the friends and family.

“This tree represents the strength, stability and connectedness to nature, standing firm within the earth and withstanding of the greatest challenges. The branches represent the different family members, the uniqueness of each family, the flexibility and growth of families through the seasons of life,” the exhibition’s catalogue explains.

The leaves represented by the beads, speak of the fragility of life, the loss and change brought by childhood bereavement and yet the beauty and enrichment of the life and treasured memories, however brief the moment and whether held in the arms of loved ones or within the womb of their mother.
The tree also represents the wider community, the sense of belonging to a wider supportive network which in turn brings a sense of safety and hope for the future. We are reminded through the changing of the seasons and the cycle of nature of the continuation of life despite the enormity of childhood loss. “

The piece of artwork stands in the foyer of Cavan Hospital. In 2012, the hospital’s maternity department won the Elaine McCluskey Nursing and Midwifery award and bursary for quality for their perinatal bereavement services.

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The bursary was used to frame and complete the Children’s Remembrance Tree.

In another piece of work in the exhibition, artist Emma Sheridan in a self-portrait deals with her own experiences of perinatal mental health issues.

“I wanted the image to look, like me, as if it was disintegrating. For others to look into her eyes say, that feels like me and not be alone,” she said. “This painting is also full of hope and positivity. The colours are vibrant, I feel beautiful, I am owning all of it. Yes, I am tired and it is hard but I am no longer trying to be perfect and neither is this painting. It is me.”

A series of illustrations by Fiona Carey depicting everyday experiences of breastfeeding will also feature.

The exhibition will run until 15 July at Dublin’s Science Gallery.

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