Many people may be tempted to do things that are death defying. But, instead, many in today’s society are death denying.  

Western society has long been a death-denying culture. Maybe it is fear of the unknown; maybe it is a lack of belief in an afterlife. Maybe it is just denial of inevitability. On the other hand, cultures across the globe have long celebrated death, embraced the end of life, and revered their lost loved ones. 

Numerous authors, experts, and psychologists have addressed the need for Western views on death to change. Time magazine recently published an article by a grief expert who wrote about the soaring increase of loss and grief after the pandemic. With so much collective loss, the author urged readers to engage with others who have experienced death—to share stories, admit grief, and ask of others, “How are you?” None of these options are easy, but they can go a long way toward normalizing death. 

According to the author, storytelling helps make people feel acknowledged. That, in turn, can lead to healing. In sharing the death and grief experience, it becomes more communal, more survivable, and more normal. 

People tend to push away—or choose not to discuss—things that make them uncomfortable. But there really should not be any reason to avoid discussing death. Today, people encounter death everywhere—from video games to nightly news to popular music. But in those forms, it appears unreal, distant, even temporary. 

This view of death should move closer to reality, and funeral professionals can play a vital role in shifting outdated views and normalizing the grieving process. 

How Funeral Professionals Can Help
According to the National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine, “Death is an important part of lifespan development, yet it remains trivialized or feared across many cultures. The perpetuation of death as a taboo subject continues to negatively affect society. Death anxiety inhibits death preparedness, which could affect the quality of dying.”

“Death preparedness” is where funeral professionals can make a difference. One idea is to team up with nursing homes and hospice caregivers to help families begin sharing their stories and legacies and talking about life before death. 

Funeral directors already work with aftercare professionals, which is an excellent shift in expanding their mission. They may also want to consider hiring an on-staff professional—a concierge or guide, of sorts—to reach out to families experiencing end-of-life issues.

How the Pandemic Can Help Start the Conversation 
It takes some out-of-the-box thinking, because aftercare is not always a priority. But as the world exits a pandemic, and views continue to evolve on everything from working remotely to virtual services, now may be an optimal time to introduce more progressive views on death. 

Shining a Light on the Death
In her book, “All the Living and The Dead,” author Hayley Campbell says, “I’ve finally seen what real death is like, and the transformative seeing is almost beyond words. But I found something else there in the dark…you have to turn the light off to see the glow.” 

Funeral professionals are at the front line of death; which puts them in the perfect position to  shine that light to help others feel more comfortable addressing, and preparing for, life’s most inevitable certainty. 

Resources to Help Continue the Aftercare Conversation


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