The Grand Harbour, Valletta

The Grand Harbour provides a backdrop which contains the process; the struggling, the pain, the love and the liberation.

Pervading presence

“Watching the film was a truly spiritual experience. The film is soothing and provokes insight. It is an invitation to know the self - to unearth deeper levels of the self. The audio-visual experience could prove to be cathartic and therapeutic”.

Dr. Benna Chase

Dr. Benna Chase, is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist whose experience and observations stem from 20 years of working with people who are dying and with their significant others. Her profound understanding and attunement to the ill person within Sir Paul Boffa Hospital has led her to analyse how its location on the Grand Harbour can encourage meaning-making.

“Throughout the years I have become increasingly aware of the powerful influence that the presence of the Grand Harbour has on the processing of the experience of dying. For patients and their loved ones, the experience of dying is an intense journey of meaning-making and spiritual growth. It is a time when patients take stock of their lives, of what they have contributed to the world and of what mark they are going to leave behind them. This is, by far, a liberating process and many patients reach what Byock (1996) describes as “a heightened sense of well-being”, as a result of having committed themselves to fully living the intense pain and also the intense love of saying goodbye.

The Grand Harbour provides a backdrop which contains the process; the struggling, the pain, the love and the liberation. In its stillness it soothes, in its grandeur it provokes reflection, and in its sheer beauty, it inspires insight and reminds us that we are part of a bigger plan. Fort St Angelo, the Three Cities and Valletta guard the harbour giving a sense of protection. They serve as a constant reminder of the cycle of life; that we come into the world, leave our mark and move on, making way for others to build on what we have left behind. The coming and going of ships provides movement in the stillness, and their continued presence over time, helps both patient and professional find meaning in a life which is so transient.

These are aspects that come up, over and over again in my work with clients, as we explore the existential issues that the awareness of our mortality brings up. I have seen very distressed patients go out on the veranda and becoming serene in a few moments. The setting supports processing to take place on both a conscious level and more importantly on a deeper unconscious level as the patient and family members make contact with their spiritual core. It is a setting that holds patients, family members and professionals alike, each with the other, and each with him/herself. Dying is a time when we need to go back to our roots, to put together the pieces that make us whole and reach a state of inner and outer harmony.”

Now that the Department of Oncology has moved to Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre at Mater Dei Hospital, Dr. Chase takes this knowledge with her. She will be using Deep Shelter project as an audio-visual tool during her practice to address the importance of visuals that stimulate harmony, safety, memory, meaning-making, natural rhythms and cyclical changes.