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Open Ended: an interdisciplinary research project towards the development of mental and physical spaces for alternative farewell rituals

Project: Research project

1.1. Objective:

OPEN ENDED is an interdisciplinary research project on the development of new physical and mental spaces for farewell rituals in a secularized society. The starting point is the lack of adequate alternatives for both farewell rituals and associated physical spaces beyond largely outdated traditions.

1.2. Methodology:

2015-2016: What are the mental needs regarding farewell rituals?

Open Ended started with an investigation of the needs in our society on the level of alternative farewell rituals: "What do people expect from a farewell ritual in 2016" and "What elements of a farewell ritual are essential?". People from three categories were interviewed: (1) people who recently lost someone; (2) people who never explicitly had to deal with severe loss; (3) experts in the mourning- and funeral sector. Professionals from the last category also participated in a focus group interview. On the basis of the interviews and focus groups, we are able to refine and pinpoint the needs and expectations using qualitative research methods within the framework of the grounded theory and using NVIVO10. Preliminary analysis indicates that the conceptual complex revolves around the notion of authenticity and sincerity.

Together with the study of the relevant sources and literature, substantial effort was put in the establishment of formal and informal connections with people active in the field and practice of funeral undertaking. Witness to the success of this professional network, was the enthusiastic participation of artists, funeral undertakers and celebrants at the conference ‘Open Einde’ on October, 19th (2016). This showed on the one hand an existing "gap" in the field that confirms the pioneering work that Open Ended does in providing professionals with tools and insights hitherto lacking; on the other hand it showed the importance and the increasing attention to this issue in our society. The professional celebrants and undertakers can be regarded as co-investigators: they are prepared to implement and test the final results in their practice. Dela Dampoort, de ODE, Green Fuse, the city of Ghent and intercommunal Westlede have consented in doing so. Possible partners in the future are de Zeven Eiken, Into Stillness, Terra en Lieve Hemel.

The hospital AZ Sint Lucas continues to be our partner in 2018 for the development of farewell rituals for a specific target group (rituals for stillborn children).

2016-2017: design and feedback to the field.

A second phase of the research began in September 2016: students in the context of interdisciplinary student groups (both students from the Faculty of Health, Education and Social work and from the School of Arts) work together to develop and design new farewell rituals and their associated spaces. Based on the results of the research of the first phase and new insights in design principles, students work on different aspects of the project: space, environment / landscape, objects, clothing, action, overall experience. Preparations on the modus operandi and the coordination of this interdisciplinary collaboration was done with an interdisciplinary team of members of different departments educational programs of the HoGent between February and June 2016. The value for the departments lies in the new methodology that connects physical space to emotional well-being.

1.3. Expected Results: 2017-2018:

The final result of project consists of (i) a publication on new farewell rituals; (ii) an exhibition of the visual representations of the designs that have emerged from the interdisciplinary research, and (iii) the development of training packages for celebrants, policy makers and undertakers.

There is a great interest from the field of funeral celebrants to work together on the development for training and coaching packages on "Designing and supervising new farewell rituals" based on the research results. In comparison to our neighbouring countries, Flanders runs behind and the research can play an important role in the development and professionalization of the field. Tjeu Leenders of “VZW de zeven eiken” already showed his interest for a partnership in this matter.





StatusIn execution