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Supporting Three Generations Of Healing Through Art Therapy

Laurel Palliative Care Foundation’s Art Therapy program helped Uta, Julia and Luca to heal from their grief.

Uta, Julia healing through arts therapy

It’s not often you see three generations from one family benefitting from the one palliative care service.

Laurel Palliative Care Foundation’s Arts Psychotherapist, Jane Smeets was lucky enough to meet Uta, her daughter Julia, and grandson Luka recently through her Arts Therapy program, available to patients and their families.

Sadly, the family have experienced much loss throughout the last three years, with the deaths of Uta’s mother Rosemarie in August 2018, Julia’s father Bob in August 2019, and Uta’s husband Glen in August 2020.

After nursing Rosemarie for four years, Uta then stepped into the role of carer for Bob, who was diagnosed with leukemia, sadly losing his battle just one month later.

Tragically, Uta’s husband Glen then learnt of his diagnosis of oesophageal cancer.  Uta and her family once again, faced the merry-go-round of appointments, cancer treatment, and hospital visits, with Glen dying peacefully at Laurel Hospice, in August last year.

“After caring for and losing three loved ones over consecutive years, I lost my sense of identity and purpose.  My life was purely looking after Mum, Bobby and Glen, then losing all three,” Uta said.

“Accepting my grief through arts therapy allowed me to stop and say no to commitments, without having to justify difficult decisions to both myself and others.  Working with Jane gave me the strength to recognise and acknowledge bereavement through some dark and despairing days – I didn’t know different types of grief even existed,” Uta said.

Julia found arts therapy most helpful in understanding that grief is not only different for each person but was a different experience in relation to each loss.

 “Using art materials helped me explore what I was feeling, and through this I started to understand more about myself.  Talking to Jane both face to face and via phone, helped me interpret what I was experiencing, and how to deal with it daily without feeling guilty,” Julia said.

Four-year-old Luka also found it a challenging time, with his family noticing erratic behaviour, refusing to attend kindy, sadness, and confusion around the extent of loss.  Jane’s intuitive guidance provided Julia the language, space, and tools, enabling her to talk with Luka about death and dying, even explaining the lifecycles of autumn leaves from their garden.

It is thanks to our generous donors who make it possible to fund vital services such as Jane’s, along with her dedicated team of Creative Expression volunteers.  These services available to patients and their families, complement the clinical palliative care that Southern Adelaide Palliative Services provides.

Find out more about the Centre for Creative Health.