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Rituals of Farewell

What if there were different rituals of farewell, to process different types of loss?

Photo of Marije Haas
19 16

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Funeral rituals are in place to help those who remain understand and accept that their loved one is gone.

What if there were different rituals for different departures?

It has been studied that it's easier to accept a loved-one's death in the case of a prolonged illness – the death is not sudden, but expected. There has been a chance to say goodbye.

With sudden deaths, peaceful or violent, the grieving process is very different. Those who remain struggle much more with the loss. There are things left unsaid. There was no chance to say goodbye.

In the case of Alzheimer's disease, biologically, the patient may take a long time to die, however, we have to accept the loss of their identity during this biological process. Again there is no chance for goodbye. This is particularly hard to accept and understand, as the biological individual is still around.

Could we help the carers for dementia patients by designing rituals of farewell for memories or skills lost?

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Personally, I find it hugely hopeful to think we could be instrumental in designing our own death. I can find comfort in knowing how I will die, what legacy I may leave behind. We can plan (to a degree) how we bring life into the world, how our children our born, why can we not do the same for death?


Mia de Haas


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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Wow Marije this is so special!  The memorial/sculpture you created is so beautiful.  Can I ask where it is located?  Is it located in someone's garden?  It does not appear to be related to a burial site but I cannot tell from the photo. 
We had an interesting conversation at the NYC OpenIDEO Meet Up about what happens around burials.  There was a guest speaker who came from the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Death Lab.  She spoke about the limitation of space for cemeteries as well as the environmental effects of traditional burials and cremations.  The subject of memorials, spaces for memorials came up.  The group also spoke about rituals, and how there might be new ones in the future.  This idea, creating something that speaks of loss, something unique that becomes something different is an interesting idea as a memorial, especially as it speaks to the Process of end of life, and losses along the way.

There is a post in the Ideas phase about creating community gardens as spaces where one can go to remember loved ones.  I like the idea of spaces that become distinct by bringing together these new ritual objects, like the one you made for mama.   Thoughts?
@   - from Ken Rosenfeld 

Marije - Here are the posts from the NYC OpenIDEO Chapter
 You might find the topics interesting and relevant.

Great inspiration post!  Thanks again for sharing it.

Photo of Marije Haas

Thanks Bettina Fliegel I have some thoughst on the matter, which I will try to shape and post as an idea soon! Thanks for linking thoughts together and opening up conversation.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great!  I will be excited to check out your idea!

Photo of Marije Haas

Hi Bettina Fliegel , I finally managed to post up some ideas. In response to your questions above, the memorial we made for my mum is located in my dad's garden.  My mother was cremated and we did distribute her ashes at her favorite spot near the beach. Interestingly we weren't the first ones to do that there. There were some beautiful other memorials left there. A beautiful spot, enhanced by the memories of other people I think. This, by the way, is not entirely legal I believe, so I didn't quite want to publish it "live". 

Either way, food for thought!

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