Palliative Care Week Playback Theatre event to act out stories from the dying

Everybody dies, some sooner than others, but people don’t have to grieve alone.

A Wollongong palliative care nurse is hoping to spread this message through improvised theatre at Wollongong Hospital.

Kathleen Wurth is inviting the terminally ill, their family and carers to share stories and experiences next Friday May 26 with the Playback Theatre group.

Their heartfelt tales will then be dramatised and acted out by improvising performers, often creating fun moments of laughter one minute then solemn tears the next.

Death is a part of living and grieving is a part of loving and losing. - Kathleen Wurth

“The stories are often really rich, they can be really sad, they can be really humorous, it’s just very much about the human experience. For carers and patients and families to see their lives or their stories reflected back  … can be really powerful and profound,” Ms Wurth said.

“Death is a part of living and grieving is a part of loving and losing, it’s a normal part of life. Normalising it is really important, a theme we’re hoping to get across in a supportive, sensitive and compassionate way.”

The clinical nurse has also gone through the grieving process first hand, becoming the primary carer to both her parents who sadly succumbed to their individual illnesses – breast cancer and dementia.

Ms Wurth said caring for someone who is dying can be daunting and overwhelming, not just because you’re losing a loved one but also trying to cope with finances, treatment and care.

During her own experiences she said she felt frightened, exhausted, out of her depth while trying to coordinate the practical and emotional sides of the situations.

“When people don’t know what’s ahead or what’s going to happen it can just compound a fairly stressful and strained situation,” she said.

“With my nursing hat on I’m often encountering people in the depths of despair.”

Gerry Orchin from the Playback Theatre said this sort of work helps people feel less isolated.

“Our intention is to honour all the stories that will be told, and to reflect them back - using music, movement and the spoken word - without any rehearsal but with as much grace and humour as we can," Mr Orchin said.

The free event is open to patients, their family and carers and the general public. 

Palliative Care Week Playback Theatre will run at the Wollongong Hospital Auditorium, Level 8, Friday May 26 from 6pm.

For more information email kay.cope@health.nsw.gov.au or phone 0421 097 810.

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