Death positivity is NOT saying.....
That a person is thrilled or excited about being dead, or that by being death positive, it'll make a death any less hard, grief less sad or it will take all the pain away.
According to Caitlin Doughty, it's important to dispel what people may think what this movement is all about. Here are 3 myths she shares:
Myth One:The movement is driven by people sharing their hashtags and goth fashion on Instagram.
The movement lionizes the ideal of “the good death,” ignoring the many who suffer bad deaths.
I cannot be afraid to die, or be in the midst of grief, and still be death positive.
This movement desires to raise one's death awareness and to help our society break the code-of-silence that often surrounds death, dying and grief, which in turn, might help us to acquire more emotional tools so that we can have the opportunity to interact with these life experiences with grace, integrity, honor and more serenity.
Be death curious and death positive. Reach out to start this journey.
Are open & honest conversations helpful?
What about excavating beliefs that no longer serve you in healthy ways?
Are building healthier emotional responses with death, dying and grief spiritually sound advice?
What about having the courage and the curiosity to explore death?
Death positivity does take courage.
The willingness to "do death differently".
The curiosity to explore topics that you once avoided.
Be an active participant in your life, lean into matters that might be uncomfortable. Learn these topics aren't as frightening as you once thought.
What are some ways of bringing death positivity into our lives?
Join a death cafe.
Discover death rituals from around the world.
Learn about traditional funeral alternatives.
A Death Doula is a great vessel that will help you to learn more and become more death literate. Reach out and be amazed at what you can learn.
Death - a subject that most of us avoid!
Many say "speaking of death and dying is morbid, taboo, ghoulish! Im all about living life, not taking about death"!
People who are death positive think exploring, empowering and enriching death, dying and grief should not be denied, but encouraged through open and honest conversations, about an absolute100% guarantee life event.
Death positivity is helping to break the code-of-silence and the culture of denial around end-of-life matters. It promotes healthy, open discussions and encourages the discovery of the varying emotions, all of which can lead to honest conversations that break down the barriers to honor and respect death.
According to the "Order of the Good Death", Death Positivity means:
I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.
I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.
I believe that the dead body is not dangerous, and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.
I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.
I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.
I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes, and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.
What other subjects (other than death) do you avoid?
Do you believe that any kind of open discussions will hurt you?
Do you avoid talking about certain topics because they make you uncomfortable, even though it will happen to you?
Is this avoidance an emotionally healthy way to live life?
Be different - lean into it - ask questions - discover and accept, and I'm sure you will find a new way to experience these natural events in your life.
Many people are preoccupied with staying young, avoiding the appearance of getting older, and doing everything possible to avoid end-of-life (EOL) and EOL conversations.
I've always been interested in death, and eventually began pursuing education and gaining knowledge to help others navigate this journey. In the beginning of my process to become a Death Doula, someone asked me "Why are you so preoccupied with death? Im all about living, not dying!" I wasn't surprised or offended by this comment because I do not feel that talking about death, dying and grief is a negative thing, but more of an honor to be able to look at all aspects of living, which happens to include death.
A natural occurrence.
100% guaranteed event.
Do we ignore it?
Don't we talk about it?
Don't we take time to explore it?
Don't we honor it as an integral part of life?
To me, death is not the enemy! It is my thinking about death, dying and grief that are the enemy!
Chosen to dig deep into my own history of experiences with death (and how I have reacted to it).
Gained knowledge about the many end-of-life options that I, and my loved ones, have.
The willingness of understanding that death is a teacher for what is important in life, and this gives me the ability to live my life differently.
And finally, because of my beliefs, I am able to helps others in their final journey. What a gift.
Mortality terrifies a good portion of us, especially when we the relationships we have with death, dying and grief aren't really emotionally healthy ones.
We tend to live our lives as if death will not happen to us or to our loved ones. We ignore it. We put it on the bookshelf, only to be taken down when "it" is upon us, and then, we only look at it with reluctance and discomfort.
Look at the language we use -
succumbed, lost the battle, failure to thrive, giving up, etc.
We see death as something to oppose at all costs. Look at the amount of money and medical procedures that are reached for at the end-of-life. We try to postpone it with one more surgery, more medication, more hospitalization.
But what if we used death as a guiding light to focus, with more purpose, on how we spend our limited time, with whom we allow into our lives and what we focus on? Could then death be a teacher for what is important?
We all have choices as we can.....
Either deny death, have no meaningful relationship with it, and refuse to acknowledge it, OR we can begin to slowly explore it, researching what our history is with it and take the opportunity to build a bridge towards it.
As I've said before, "end-of-life can be as beautiful as the beginning of life", if:
We acknowledge the reality of death (this doesn't mean we are happy or ready to die).
We understand how death has become over medicalized so that we can keep it at bay for as long as possible, and in the meantime, possibly add suffering to the dying.
We choose to empower ourselves with knowledge so that we can make decisions that will reflect the essence of whom we are and what is important to us at EOL.
Lean into "The 3-E's to Explore, Empower and Enrich" so that you and your loved ones journey can be filled more peace and serenity.
Words and phrases are powerful. They can describe an event with great detail. They can illustrate specific emotions so others can be aware of feelings and events.
If we believe that words are powerful, do the euphemisms we use regarding "end-of-life" distance us from true emotions?
Do these phrases release us from thinking about our own mortality, or of the mortality of those we love?
Since death is the natural part of everyones life cycle, should it be referred to in vague language?
If death is a normal occurrence, should it be seen as the enemy, one in which we do not discuss with direct language?
Death can feel unpleasant and uncomfortable, but what if we began to explore our relationships with death, dying and grief? Would we begin to develop a healthier response to these natural events?
According to the article of Funeral Basics, here are some of the frequently used euphemisms for death ~
By using words like “dead,” “died,” and “dying,” we work toward acknowledging the reality of the death. You may not want to use these words while your emotions are still in turmoil and your mind rebelling against reality, but in order to move forward, you get to one day acknowledge that “dead” and “died” are the reality and you are ready to face it.
"In general, we use euphemisms about death to distance ourselves from the reality of death. While this habit might help us in the moment, it doesn’t address the underlying issue: most of us are afraid of death and don’t know how to grieve. While carefully considering when to use euphemisms is just one small step toward accepting the reality of death and our own mortality, it’s no small thing. After all, you take every journey just one step at a time".
What if, together, we begin to ease into using descriptive language so that you might have the possibility of developing a more honest and open way to respond to end-of-life matters?
"The word euphemism comes from the Greek word euphemos.
Its first use is said to have been in religion because people were afraid of using those words that were considered taboo".
Death, dying and grief can be seen as taboo subject and are often very uncomfortable topics to openly speak about, so it is easier, at times, to find other words or phrases that ease the discomfort.
The soft language that euphemisms provide are often used to make or downplay the truth, while distancing ourselves with conflicts, personal values, beliefs or ideals.
This kind of emotional distancing can be seen as a defensive strategy that separates us from reality and keeps us in neutral emotional territory.
What if we began to use direct and honest language?
What emotions might come up if our words were no longer vague or ambiguous?
Do certain euphemisms create distance from distressing situations?
Do we use these phrases to protect ourselves from taboo subjects?
Or do euphemisms work to reduce our negative emotions and thus help us to cope?
Only you can decide if euphemisms are helping or distancing you from your feelings, in the meantime explore your emotions around end-of-life matters and see if you can see how language affects the way you think, act, and behave.
It is said by a French writer and philosopher that "One great use of words is to hide our thoughts". Euphemisms hide our thoughts.
Death can be an uncomfortable subject to talk about, and when we use words that do not accurately describe events or feelings around events, these might limit our experiences.
Euphemisms around death, dying and grief are often used because it can make us feel better by not being directly exposed to the uncomfortable emotions that come up.
Here is just a small list of euphemisms that refer to the "fate from which we cannot escape."
Awakened to eternal life
Lost his/her life
Rest in peace
Was called home
What emotions do these EOL euphemisms bring up for you?
Do they release you from the reality of death?
How would you feel if you spoke directly about death, dying and grief?
Learn more about how your language will continue to affect your journey with life and death.
Euphemisms are "mild, indirects word(s) or expression substituted for one considered too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing".
Here are just a few of every day euphemism examples -
getting on, instead of being old
let go, instead of being fired
vertically challenged, instead of being short
If language represents our society and social norms, it is interesting that we find indirect language much more palpable in certain situations.
There are many subjects (not just death, dying and grief) in other cultures that seem to be as taboo topics such as disease and sex life, which in some cultures really are forbidden to be mentioned openly and directly.
But what about here in the Western Culture?
Does death need to be taboo?
Isn't it only 100% guaranteed event in life?
Will it not happen to each one of us and to each of our loved ones?
Do euphemisms suggest evasiveness?
Should they be used when we are speaking about death?
Do we really think they can keep us from feeling emotions?
And.....do they greatly alter the direction of a conversation and reduce clear communication?
If we can become more aware of the euphemisms we use, and why we use them, we may find they are doing more harm that good.
End-of-Life (EOL) is hard, difficult, sad, gentle, blessing, beautiful etc.
EOL situations can be a bundle of so many different emotions, and possible decisions, that it can be overwhelming for the loved ones of the dying.
So often, medical wishes are not discussed beforehand, therefore making these decisions can feel like pressure and uncertainty.
When these situations arise, and the doctors come to speak with the family, so many feelings are on the surface, that the family often looks to the physicians for guidance and assurance.
A University of Pittsburg School of Medicine study was conducted to investigate "how a doctor's choice of words, or how his/her empathy and personal experience, can impact a family members' decisions to approve or not approve CPR to save a critical patients life?
This study (did not use actual patients) shows how important doctors language can influence decisions based on the different versions of the CPR explanation.
The physicians used phrases below with brief explanations:
CPR - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
DNR - Do Not Resuscitate
“Simple changes of words and perceptions about social norms resulted in large differences in CPR choices” and “This study suggests that the change isn’t just window dressing — it makes a real difference in the choices that people make. We expect that it also may reduce feelings of guilt for choosing against CPR by making family members feel like they are doing something positive to honor their loved one’s wishes at the end of life, rather than taking something away from them.”
The bottom line is that yes, physicians can influence medical decisions for EOL, but more importantly, it also shows the importance of having these conversations with your loved ones way before a medical crisis occurs, so that the anxiety and guilt is reduced and the focus is put back onto the needs of the dying and ensuring they are comfortable without heroics that tend to cause more harm to the dying.
"Society and culture influence the words we speak and the words that we speak influence society and culture".
When a society feels certain topics are better left on the fringes, it often turns to other words (euphemisms) to make subject matters a bit more palatable.
In the United States, death, dying and grief are all topics that most do not like to bring into everyday awareness and language.
How does the death awareness language influence our experiences?
Can we be described as a death phobic society?
Do we openly speak about death in our communities?
Have you had conversations with loved ones about death wishes?
Have you explored family dynamics and discovered how they have experienced death and grieving?
How do you describe death - passed away, moved on, no longer with us?
How do you describe dying - giving up, loosing the battle, no thriving?
What if we began the journey of slow discovery to become more death aware?
Would this awareness help us to gain a better understanding?
Would we be able to speak about death without fear and anxiety?
Could we then make more informed medical and end-of-life decisions?
Reach out to learn more and become more death literate.