- Chloe Marcela Coelho
Uncomfortable Immersion explores the way that our society deals with grief; particularly in adolescents. During these transformative years of developing identities and relationships, the death of a loved one can be particularly devastating.
The ‘Without Expectations’ book was designed and written using Human-Centred Design, to facilitate mourning teenagers by enabling personal grief autonomy through ritualisation and empathy. By embracing my own experience of losing my mother at thirteen, I created a pendant out of her signature, and a scarf that conceals a handwritten letter that\’s revealed by touch, in a private statement of grief that can be worn publicly.
The tools and rituals in this project were designed with Human-Centred practices, to be easy and approachable, with a strong emphasis on communication, support and personal identity.
Although the book was written with adolescents in mind, the concepts and rituals are universal and easily applied to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. It has proven to be an effective set of artefacts for fostering healthy grieving.
The design showcases that Australia will be one of the leading countries in merging design with grief by connecting multi-disciplinary teams around deathcare as a growing industry of the 21st century.
Grief is forever. Western society often frames grief as a ‘stage’ for people to overcome. However, new frameworks suggest that grief is an ongoing process.
This leaves longterm grievers without support or agency. It’s increasingly true in adolescents, as an under researched stage of development that wasn’t even recognised until the 1940s.
‘Without Expectation’ is designed as a tool for adolescents to cope with longterm grief through the use of ritual objects and strategies for managing shifting relationship dynamics.
The impact is to improve grief-literacy and facilitate the destigmatisation of death, by encouraging adolescents to talk openly about loss.
Although this design solution focused specifically on adolescents from a western society, grief is a near universal experience. By collaborating with others, and applying a human centred approach, the project has the capacity to be scaled and transformed to provide the same support for other age and culture demographics.
Additionally, due to its taboo nature, design innovation is currently scarce in the deathcare industry. My intent when tackling this Wicked design problem is to promote conversation and encourage new opportunities for design to make a positive impact in people\’s quality of life and mental health.
Research has shown that bereaved adolescents are at higher risk for negative physical, mental and social impacts than those in childhood or adulthood.
This is due to insufficient social innovations for these transformative years of development. ‘Without Expectations’ provides a holistically designed framework for dealing with grief, specifically targeted at the gap in support for adolescents.
Designing ritual objects for longer-term grief, instead of immediate funeral-use, is a niche that’s also been previously been unappreciated by the design industry.
Recently evolving models of grief strongly suggest that grief is a lifelong experience, rather than a stage that ends.
This project discusses the use of ritual objects to help adolescents process and comprehend, while maintaining important metaphysical relationships with the deceased.
This was evaluated by a multidisciplinary team consisting of a professional psychologist, trauma counsellor and a deathcare designer from the fashion industry.
Due to the sensitive nature of the project, implementation was kept anonymous when trialled with a select group of young people throughout the design process. During these discussions about death, many of the interview respondents noted that it was their first real opportunity to discuss their grief outside of close relatives.