Through the creative lens of the artist: society's perceptions of death in children

Sandra Bertman

in Oxford Textbook of Palliative Care for Children

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199595105
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199665020 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks In Palliative Medicine

Through the creative lens of the artist: society's perceptions of death in children

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  • Paediatrics
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This chapter scrutinizes how society grapples with the meaning of death in children, especially as portrayed in the creative arts. The bereaved, who often feel cut off from those who go about the routine of their everyday lives, can find suitable companionship with writers and artists who have shaped and ordered their own personal anguish. The bereaved can find a few ideas, or even one idea, that they can cling to, perhaps latching on to a simple statement such as Lisa Schnell’s ‘I am still Claire’s mom,’ rewriting it to fit their own situation. The palliative caregiver can offer unobtrusively, or at least have available, poems, memoirs, biographies, photographs, paintings, photocopies, or even brief quotations, in the hope that a few of these might be exactly the right prescription for the pain. Paintings and poems console us by connecting us to others whose suffering reminds us of our own helplessness, our shared fears of death, and our common mortality. Reminding us that we are not alone, art offers us lifelines. It enables us to shift perspective, to borrow the lens of an artist, and to refl ect anew. And so — back to newspapers, hard data, music, poetry, and paradox. In the words of the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, ‘We have art in order not to die of the truth.’

Chapter.  7226 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Paediatrics ; Palliative Medicine

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