Finding the good in grief
Published on 14 July 2023
There may be few certainties in life, but one unavoidable experience that we will all deal with is death.
While some may reason that it is simply a part of life, for others the heartbreak of losing a family member or friend can have a profound and lasting impact.
Never has our relationship with death been more evident than throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with the early stages of the virus forcing us to re-examine our own mortality and that of those close to us.
As the number of those succumbing to the virus accelerated, the subject of death became inescapable. It was in those dark days that a concept of a space for those affected by grief was developed by the team at the University’s Botanic Garden.
Located in the city’s West End, the Botanic Garden has always been a place of tranquillity, and for Good Grief Garden designer and alumna Lorena Weepers, the pandemic emphasised the requirement for a dedicated space to allow visitors to reflect.
“The Good Grief Garden began as a reflection of my personal grief and an exploration into what it takes to acknowledge it,” she said.
“I decided to spend the final year of my degree exploring grief through my design practice. I explored what grief looked like through history and in different cultures, and how we are often so out of touch with something that affects us all at some point in our lives.”
Kevin Frediani, Curator of the Botanic Garden, was tasked with bringing Lorena’s vision to life. He said, “Visitors have always sought peace and tranquillity here at the Botanic Garden, but the opening of a dedicated memorial garden allows visitors a beautiful, considered space to reflect on a lost relative or friend.”
The Good Grief Garden was formally opened on 23 March, coinciding with the UK National Day of Reflection, organised by the charity Marie Curie. Surrounded by trees, at the heart of the garden are four specially-commissioned obelisks, representing the seasons of the year, while nooks have also been created to ensure a quiet place for those wishing to reflect in privacy.
“People seem to see something in this project that they can personally relate to. It has been a pleasure to watch this garden become embedded into the communities of Dundee, uniting us as we all try to find the good in grief. I hope the garden continues to bring people peace” Lorena said.
Amy Paterson, whose father, Dr Neil Paterson, was the Botanic Garden’s Education Officer before he passed away during the pandemic.
Yvonne Murray, Development Associate at the University of Dundee, is inspired by the sense of community she feels in the garden. “Individuals, local businesses, and charitable organisations came together and raised nearly £30,000 to make the garden possible,” Yvonne explained. “Their collective generosity and willingness to recognise their loved ones created this shared space where people can find peace and comfort. I’m so grateful for everyone who helped make the garden a reality.”
Much about university life is focused on the future. Whether that means developing skills for a future career or research aimed at making our world a better place, campuses across the world are undeniably focused on what comes next, rather than what has come before. While the University of Dundee is certainly no different, it is comforting to know that there is now one small corner where we can all take a moment to reflect on those we miss the most.
people visit the Botanic Garden every year