In academic environments, students are often encouraged to maintain their wellbeing through student union services, such as therapy dogs, counselling, or bubble wraps. But at Radbound University in Nijmegen, one intiative from the student chaplaincy involves encouraging pupils to lie in graves – ‘grave therapy’ – as a reminder of their mortality.
The grave, furnished with pillows and a mat, opens during the office hours of the Student Church and is available for a maximum of three hours and a minimum of thirty minutes, and does not allow the possession of phones or other personal items.
A Grave Simulation
Gayle Hammill, a registered psychotherapist at Circle Therapy, believes grave therapy to be helpful as a way to switch off from the sensory overload of everyday life and says it’s a great opportunity to “just be with ourselves and our thoughts”. However, he also believes this therapeutic method requires close screening to ensure psychological safety, as it may be a harmful trigger for those who’ve experienced any historical abuse or trauma.
Psychotherapist and mental health specialist Claire Goodwin-Fee agrees that the practice could be helpful, especially for those with religious faith – but only if students are comfortable with the idea. Nonetheless, she considers meditating outside, without the need for a grave, to be the beneficial ingredient.