‘Death positivity’: Why lifting the taboo on dying is vital for life
As a society, we are not good at dealing with death and grief. It makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable and, perhaps, a little bit frightened. We go to great lengths to avoid confronting ideas related to our own mortality and the mortality of the people we care about.
We’re not sure how to talk about death, how to support people facing the end of their life or how to be there for people who are bereaved. We’re so worried about saying the wrong thing that we’ll often pull away from the people we care about when they need us most. In this way, death is something taboo – something unpleasant, something that we can, perhaps, avoid if we pretend that it doesn’t exist and isn’t going to happen to each and every one of us.
The ‘death positivity’ movement is hoping to change this by encouraging society to accept and embrace the inevitability of their end of life. The movement is all about opening up the conversation about end of life, about dead bodies, about the process of funerals and burial and cremation. In this way, people become more familiar and comfortable with ideas of death and dying – and are therefore better able to support their families and communities through experiences of end of life, and bereavement. Embracing death positivity will also allow each of us to face our own mortality with less fear and uncertainty. In this way, death stops being something we’ve been traumatically forced to confront and can instead be embraced as something familiar, inevitable and natural.
Along a similar vein, death positivity aims to open up the dialogue around its physical aspects. what happens to the body when we die? What happens during embalming? What happens when our bodies are cremated? How quickly do bodies decompose? What happens when bodies are donated to science? Creating an environment where people feel able to ask these types of questions, and to be comfortable with their own curiosity, means that we will all feel more confident when facing the inevitability of death and grief.
Caitlin Doughty – an American mortician, the bestselling author of books such as Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Lessons from the Crematorium and a passionate advocate of reducing the stigma around dying – is the woman behind the death positive movement. She’s extremely passionate about normalising death and everything that goes along with it. This includes normalising the process of people caring for their own dead – cleaning them, dressing them and tending to them before burial or cremation. This is something that is normal across many cultures but is becoming increasingly rare in Western society.
In the lead up to death, or in the immediate aftermath, people may not be comfortable with grief. They may ask themselves – am I grieving the right way? Am I being too casual? Too happy? How long should I grieve for? In this way, our discomfort with anything related to death and grief compounds all of the negative aspects of dying – it becomes awkward, uncomfortable, stilted. The dying may not be comfortable communicating or even acknowledging their needs. With the conversation opening up, the dying will be able to better recognise their own needs and will be better supported by their families and communities. Life is not the opposite of death – they are the same, existing on a continuum.
There’s so much fear about death, when death is actually natural, normal and universal. The more we talk about death, the less frightening and uncomfortable it will be – for everyone. And the more we’ll be able to live our lives fully, without fear.
If you have any further questions or to get a quote for a cremation visit the Bare Cremation website by clicking here www.barecremation.com.au or call 1800 071 176.
About Bare Cremation
Bare Cremation is Australia’s most affordable, and least traditional, funeral director. Our mission is to ensure every Australian has the option of an affordable, seamless and stress-free funeral service that can be arranged online or over the phone in minutes, at a fraction of the price of traditional funeral homes. We’ve cut out the need to go to a funeral home and made a complicated process simple by offering an affordable, transparent and easy alternative. Find out more by visiting the Bare Cremation website.