Conversations in Grief Blog: Thin Places
by Laura Wessels
A husband grieving for his wife brought up the concept of thin places. Places “for special encounters where heaven seems to touch earth.” Thin places are places the bereaved feel uniquely close and connected to the one or ones they have lost.
We recently dedicated a Memorial Garden at Rainbow Hospice Care’s Inpatient Center in Johnson Creek. The garden is a thin place, with its brick memorials, waterfall rock, fire pit, benches, and pathways for wandering. The garden was intentionally designed as a space for remembering loved ones. Their names are there, on bricks, on benches, and on placards. The bereaved may visit, linger, remember their person, reflect on their memories, and find comfort in the knowledge that their person will never be forgotten.
It’s also a place for connection. We treasure the burial space, often at a cemetery, of our person or create a special space in our home for their ashes. One woman shared her intention of bringing her lawn chair and reading a book beside her loved one’s headstone at the cemetery. Another person told me he sat on the bench outside of his loved one’s room at her facility to be in the space where she took her last breath. They both have claimed thin places. These are ways to connect with our loved ones, in the only way now possible. The Memorial Garden serves the same purpose. The bereaved may meet their person in the garden.
The garden is a place to grieve, a place to retreat for rest and quiet, to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, and in the words of Grief Expert David Kessler, to send your love to your person.
Blogger Maren Tirabassi wrote the following about the purpose of a memorial garden, a thin place. “The garden invites us to share all our hopes, doubts, wonders, and sorrows, and our tears of grief fall...and we plant our new tomorrows.”
Rainbow’s Memorial Garden is available for anyone to explore and to encounter their loved one. Other thin places, according to Grief Expert Alan D. Wolfelt, may be “places of worship or sacred sites but are often outdoors, in nature, commonly where water and land meet or land and sky come together. Ultimately, all that matters is that the place feels ‘thin’ to you.”
On those days when you are homesick for your person, may you find a thin place, where heaven touches the earth, a place where you can connect with your loved one once more, and where you can be home with them again, for a little while.