Megan hopes comic will help others deal with grief

A picture of Megan Sinclair with her comic 'Close to the Heart'

Inspired by the memory of her beloved father, University of Dundee PhD student Megan Sinclair has created a new comic that explores bereavement while raising both awareness of heart disease and funds for vital medical research.

Close to the Heart will be launched at a symposium at Dundee Comics Creative Space on Wednesday 21 November. The publication centres on the sudden death of Megan’s father, George, who suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep at the age of 53 in April 2014. She says the event turned her family and life upside down but her determination to do her father proud helped drive Megan towards First Class Honours and a Masters degree with distinction before embarking on her PhD in Comics and Education.

Despite its origins in tragedy, Megan says the overall message of ‘Close to the Heart’, which explores the importance of communication in helping people cope with grief, is one of hope.

“The comic basically started out as a need to write,” she said. “In the weeks following my Dad’s death I needed an outlet and scribbling down my thoughts gave me that. My writing went from a diary to a bullet point list hidden away on my computer and then to a comic script. At that point I wasn’t really sure what the aim for it was because it was still so raw and personal.

“Gradually it became a part of my University work but it was only in the last year or so that it progressed from an individual project to a collaborative one. Opening the comic up to my fellow artists has been a huge help as it has allowed me to share my grief and work through it with others. Each person has taken the story and made it their own, which I love. It still feels personal to me but is simultaneously universal.

“Comics were a constant source of comfort in my own battle with bereavement so for me there is no better way to express my own story than through that medium. Ultimately, I hope the comic can be used as a way of helping others and educating them on resources available to those going through similar experiences.

“My research centres on healthcare information comics and I would love to use this and its counterpart Dr Heartbeat, a superhero genre version of Close to the Heart, as teaching tools to encourage communication on difficult or stigmatised topics such as death.”

Wednesday’s symposium focuses on public information comics produced by the Comics Studies team at the University in collaboration with academic and non-academic partners and aims to explore the impact of comics as a mode of public engagement as well as a research methodology.

The event begins at 10am with guest speaker Nicola Streeten, an illustrator, graphic novelist and author of Billy, Me and You, discussing her own experience of comics and grief. Other talks centred on graphic health will follow, along with a workshop, and roundtable discussion.

Close to the Heart will be officially launched at 7pm that evening and members of the public are welcome to attend both the symposium and the launch event. The comic is free but donations, which will be given to the British Heart Foundation, are welcome.

BHF Scotland Director James Cant said, “Megan has created a remarkable piece of work that conveys the pain of losing a loved one to heart disease in a way that’s both powerful and personal. We’re proud to be associated with Close to the Heart and grateful to Megan for raising awareness of heart and circulatory diseases in such an effective way, and for raising funds to support the lifesaving research that will help us beat heartbreak forever.”

People can register for the symposium here and to attend the launch of Close to the Heart here