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A Short Guide to Death Positivity

Death is one of the greatest taboos of Western society. Over recent decades, death and dying have been kept out of the public eye, hidden away in hospital wards and funeral homes. However, the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has very much forced the unavoidability of death into the public consciousness. This has led many people to rethink attitudes towards death and dying and what strategies can be put in place to make this universal condition less traumatic to the living. Read on for a short guide to death positivity.


What is death positivity?

Death positivity is a movement that encourages people to speak openly about death, dying, and corpses in order to remove the fear and stigma surrounding this unavoidable part of the human condition. It advocates for the reduction of barriers surrounding death so that grieving families feel comfortable and encouraged to dress and mourn the bodies of their loved ones in a way that brings them closure without fear. The key to death positivity is the education about death, grief, and mourning, to help dispel harmful myths.



Thanatology is the scientific study of death and the practices around it, such as mourning and preparing for impending death. So, as an extension of this specialty, what is a thanatologist? Simply put, a thanatologist is an expert on death, dying, and grief and uses this knowledge to educate and offer comfort and support to grieving people and those who are preparing for the imminent death of a loved one due to, for instance, terminal illness. Your expertise as a thanatologist will always be valuable – particularly during a global pandemic. You will be able to help people to come to terms with death by offering support services in a wide range of settings, from hospitals and nursing homes to education centers and funeral homes.


Bringing death back to the home

For the past half-century, at least, in Western society, mourning rituals have been mainly carried out away from the home by funeral professionals who did not personally know the deceased. After death, the body is usually taken away to a morgue, where it is prepared for viewing at a funeral home before being laid to rest by either burial or cremation. Such practices have only led to a distance being created between the dead and the living, which has, in turn, led to increased fear and stigma of the dead body. However, it is perfectly legal in the United States to have a home funeral. Doing this will enable you to spend time with the deceased and to grieve exactly how you would like. When planning a home funeral, research how to properly care for and prepare a body. Embalming is not a legal requirement, but you should be aware that the body does go through several changes in the hours and days following death. Consult a funeral director or death doula if you would like more guidance on planning a home funeral for your loved one.