Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our culture rejects death.

Last week I wrote about my knowledge and understanding of death. I have some experience with it and am aware of it. That is to say that I know of death, I understand that it is not a rumour and I believe that one day I will die. This may be a difficult topic for some so I'd like to take it slow. A comment left on last weeks blog literates this perfectly, everyone has varied experience with death. Although from my experience in western culture it appears that generally, most people's experience with death (like the comment left last week) is limited.

Death plays a somewhat unimportant role in our culture currently. Let me qualify this statement by clarifying that I do not mean the act of dying but the whole process associated with dying including the knowledge that someone will one day die and how they live with that knowledge. We don't value, understand, educate our children or even speak about death or what dying means. It happens suddenly and is extremely traumatizing to families and close relations, this may be murder, car collisions or other unforeseen circumstances like disease, etc. When a sick person becomes deemed a dying person, they may regress and wish to be distant from others including family, they may even begin displaying symptoms of depression and become medicated for those symptoms during their time of dying.

Family members and all else are now suddenly struck with needing to "deal with" the death. A plethora of methods or interventions are used to help those dying and those affected by the death. These involving hoping for medical interventions to save, hoping for miraculous sudden recoveries and of course miracles. After hoping more practical ideas are introduced such as coping with the loss, accepting it and understanding how to move on.

The lack of continuity here and absent genuine discussion around death has created and continues to perpetuate death phobia, death anxiety or death terror (feel free to use any of the previous terms interchangeably). This is not to say that some people in the western world are not dealing with death, grief and bereavement counselling appropriately. There are many in fact but they are the minority and I wish to expose some of the gifts they share with their clients and especially the philosophy that they propagate.

Until we talk more,


  1. Great post! It made me think about death and dying from a more cultural perspective rather than an individual one as I had in the previous post.

    For example, I find it interesting for a culture who rejects death we still have such a structured idea of how to approach the aftermath of grief and bereavement. I feel that our focus is very rarely on the occurrence of death itself, but rather on how we should handle the loss afterwards - what are appropriate grieving practices? What is the "acceptable" length of bereavement? What emotions are suitable to share and which ones are not? Albeit structured, these guidelines are not discussed; instead, they are socially constructed and assumed to be the unspoken norm.

    Those are my two cents! :)

  2. Thanks!

    I think those questions are addressed by some cultures like in Judaism where individuals sit shiva at the passing of a family member or close relation. In our culture when people grieve for an extended period of time, they're told to get over it or are considered "depressed". We preach hope and coping strategies. This to me is weird, it gives us a sense of entitlement to be alive.

    I also consider that it reinforces the death phobia that we have as a culture, "tell the dying to be hopeful, maybe they will live!"

    Acceptance should be the beginning of this process in my opinion. From here we may be able to understand our deaths, we can then cope and have hope but we undisturbed by our deaths.

    Just my change to add to yours,