Borrowed Time: The Heart of Living & Dying

“The use of art has an important role in transforming capacity to cope with bereavement and open up a healthier public conversation about death.” Gwen Stevenson’s collaboration with the palliative care community project, ‘The Heart of Living & Dying’, a group process contributing to a public health approach to advance care planning in Northern Ireland.

About the Project (2016-2022) was an organisation dedicated to creative expressions addressing our love and concern for the planet. Perhaps best known for their international annual symposia, also held workshops, taught, published, and acted as a catalyst for bringing people together. The archive can be found at

Borrowed Time, on death, dying & change (2020-21) was an celebration: a gathering of disparate voices from across the globe who came together online from October 31 to November 3 2021. 

There were numerous events leading up to this gathering, represented on the Borrowed Time archive page,, as well as sessions from the main event.

These voices used many registers and tones to delve into the depths of living with and dealing with death and dying with joy as well as with sadness. Borrowed Time was a space to explore questions pertaining to death, dying and change, and to ask what dying has to teach us about living well, and living sustainably.

Gwen Stevenson presented ‘The Heart of Living and Dying’ as part of the Healthcare Session for Borrowed Time.

‘The Heart of Living & Dying’ is a two-hour group process, initiated, led and delivered since 2017, by experienced social worker, researcher and group facilitator, Deirdre McKenna, with the Palliative Care team from the Southern Health & Social Care Trust (SHSCT) and the Southern Area Hospice Services, Northern Ireland.

The success of the initiative led to it becoming an integral part of the SHSCT’s approach to advance care planning. Events ran on a regular basis and upward of 40 events took place from 2017 – 2022, both for the public and for staff who work in palliative care and acute services.

Gwen Stevenson worked with ‘The Heart Of Living & Dying’ initiative from its outset in planning, delivery and evaluation stages.

As a visual artist, Gwen attended the event in a “quiet witnessing” or “listening” role. She listened to the heart of what was said, captured its essence and reflected back in memento piece of art that was later sent to participants as a keepsake of the experience and a prompt to revisit the conversation with others.

participant quotes



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