I study how people deal with dying, death and mourning in contemporary Europe. Therefore, I examine various practices, beliefs and places that are associated with death, such as funeral rituals, bereavement practices and natural burial grounds. I also research ritual practices in other contexts, such as health care and spiritual care.

My research investigates how people make life meaningful: How do people deal with loss? How do they relate to their dead? What makes life worth living?

In addition, my work offers insight into people’s worldviews and understandings of self. Which norms and values ​​are important to people? How do people relate to their (changing) socio-cultural environment? How do they relate to nature? What is the role of religion, spirituality and secularity?

Based on my research I have written several books and articles.

Current research

My current (2021-2025) NWO Veni research project, titled ‘Dying to be Green’, investigates natural burial in the Netherlands. Natural burial grounds and other sustainable death practices, such as alkaline hydrolysis (resomation), are becoming increasingly popular. However, we know little about the meaning and diversity of these practices. Therefore, I am systematically mapping the emergence of natural burial in the Netherlands and examine how people from different backgrounds use and experience natural burial grounds. Based on this knowledge, the research also provides insight into human-nature entanglements.

Since 2018 I have been working on an AHRC-ESRC project, titled ‘Deathscapes and Diversity’. Together with colleagues, I examined cemetery and crematorium provision for religious and ethnic minorities in England and Wales. Our research showed, among other things, that inadequate funeral services result in social inequality, exclusion and a reduced sense of well-being.

University

I am currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. I teach and supervise (BA, MA and PhD) students in the fields of religious studies, ritual studies and death studies. I also work as director of the Center for Religion, Health and Wellbeing. I obtained my PhD in religious studies at Radboud University (2017) for research into contemporary funeral and mourning rituals in the Netherlands.

As an associated researcher I am affiliated with the Center of Death and Life Studies at the University of Durham (UK). In addition, I am an ambassador for the Association for the Study of Death and Society (UK) and a member of the European Network on Death Rituals (CH). In the Netherlands, I am a member of the Funerary Academy steering committee and the DONE Network.

Outside the ivory tower

In my view, it is important to exchange expertise and insights about death and grief with non-academics. That is why I regularly give lectures and interviews, participate in creative projects and contribute to debates, journals, blogs and newspapers. For example, I work with secondary schools and with professionals in death care, spiritual care and health care. I also provide training and advice to local and national government.