At Digital Dying we talk a lot about death. It’s certainly not something you can avoid and it’s a topic that has fascinated historians, scientists, and artists for as long as there have been people. Like most things, if you look closely at the subject of death, you’ll find not just heartbreak and grief, but beauty, mystery, and even humor. Nevertheless, most people talk about death in hushed tones and out of the earshot of children.
Death hasn’t always been treated as a taboo. If you think about it, it really hasn’t been that long ago that people took care of the needs of the dead themselves. In some cultures they still do.
For Americans, how we process our dead changed around the time of the Civil War when embalming became widely used. Until then, the family (usually the women) and the community took care of the body and the funeral took place in the home. Since then, we have turned over care of those who died to others and have treated the topic with kid gloves. In large part, our society doesn’t view death as a part of life, but rather an endpoint to be fearful of.
There is evidence, however, that how we think about death may be changing. The Death Cafe, an informal gathering where people meet over coffee to discuss their experiences with death have become more widespread and morticians such as the popular Caitlin Doughty, have gained a sizable following. Ms. Doughty, in fact, has been a driving force in what has been come to be known as The Death Positive Movement. Her website, The Order of the Good Death, sets out the principles of the movement and offers a pledge you can take if you’d like to be a part of it.
To be sure, these are baby steps in the effort to bring death out of the shadows and treat it as a natural part of life. But at Digital Dying, we think it’s a step in the right direction.
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