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The Remembering Garden: finding community and renewal while sharing grief

The Remembering Garden will be a way for neighborhoods to honor death by celebrating renewal.

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

The Remembering Garden is intended to combat the grief and isolation that frequently accompanies bereavement and to foster a culture that celebrates death as a communal experience. It is intended as a local endeavor, fashioned after community gardens found across the world, but encourages both a ritual of communally sharing grief and celebrating nature's ability to bring forth life.

  The vision for the Remembering Garden is one of building community in the face of loss and in creating beauty despite profound loss.  The concept is built off of community gardens that have become commonplace in cities across the globe and influenced by the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco and the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  I imagine it as a garden as diverse as the people that are remembered in it, with patches of wildflowers interspersed with neatly-curated rose bushes.

  The Remembering Garden would be located as part of a public park or other open area, perhaps with associated art installations, picnic areas, or other features that would be a center for community activity.  Each Remembering Garden would be curated by a local volunteer community and develop "rules of the garden" grounded in a set of generic principles but tailored to local communities and cultures represented in the garden. Examples of the generic principles might include the following:

1.  Grief should be supported both for its personal nature and as an opportunity for connection to the larger community

2. Honoring and supporting grieving individuals strengthens the community

3. Death is an opportunity for beauty and renewal

4. The Remembering Garden is community-owned and  transcends the individual

5.  Maintaining the Remembering Garden is the responsibility of the entire community

  Plantings in the Remembering Garden would be organized through a website where grieving community members could notify others when a death occurred.  Remembering Ceremonies would typically occur at a common day/time each week, so that community members could become habituated to attending them.  However, individuals could designate an alternate day/time if he/she preferred to invite specific community members (invitations might also be distributed via the website).

  I imagine the Garden being divided into small planting plots.  Each plot might include a post that could house a Remembrance Card that could be signed by attendees at the Remembering Ceremony and/or other community members who visited the garden.


What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Solicit interest from local community members, our local "Friends of the Park" groups for various parks in the city, and contact City Council members to solicit interest.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Assistance in designing the website and further developing the approach to the Garden's design and implementation processes.

Tell us about your work experience:

Palliative care physician with experience in program development/implementation, quality of care evaluation, and health services research.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lee-Jung Kim

Ken Rosenfeld I wonder if we can somehow design the garden to tackle all the senses. Smell of honeysuckles in the summer time.Smell of lilacs in the spring time...And allow children to play in the garden without the fenses and teach them how life begins and ends...through the cycles of life...

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld

I really like this embellishment, Lee-Jung.  I wonder , what might local communities themselves want in a place of reverence and renewal?  I can imagine that each garden, and the community it serves, might be unique in its own way!

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