Understanding death and learning about what happens when you die is at the crux of our mission. Here are a few key resources for you to delve deeper into topics such as the dying process, the funeral industry, dealing with tragedy, hospice care, and more. We hope to help bring the death conversation back into everyday life in order to live fully.
"It’s never easy to lose someone you love. Losing a loved one to an aggressive cancer such as mesothelioma can be even more difficult, because a family member or close friend may be taken far too soon, bringing a sense of shock with feelings of grief, sadness and even depression."
Caitlin Doughty is out to reclaim death. The Los Angeles mortician, author, and founder of the 'Order of the Good Death' and 'Undertaking LA' speaks to Fresh Air's Terry Gross about our society's reluctant relationship to death and how honesty is the cure.
Audio Source: www.npr.org
This is an intimate and honest conversation with palliative-care pioneer Larry Librach throughout his own journey from cancer diagnosis to his death in 2013. Librach dedicated his life to helping patients navigate their final stages—with this book, author Phil Dwyer compassionately documents how Librach faced and prepared for his own death. http://conversationsondying.com/
"We can discover what really matters in our own lives and begin to fulfill our potential and purpose right now, without waiting until our last breaths," says author Dr. Karen M. Wyatt, M.D. "This is the gift left behind by those who have already passed on before us: the knowledge that there is hope for negotiating the dangerous waters of suffering. There is a way through the darkness of illness and loss and it leads to ultimate transformation."
Summary:Sue Brayne's Nearing the End of Life, written with Peter Fenwick, provides an unvarnished yet sensitive guide to what to expect during the dying process of a loved one. The guide focuses not on the minutiae of, for example, funeral planning, but on topics such as how to listen well and "what happens if my relative or friend has dementia?" All of this rests on the authors' view that death "is never an easy time ... But being present at the time of death can be a profoundly rich and moving experience, on many levels."
Summary:Brayne's The D-Word is another practical guide to navigating a part of life that can arouse fear, awkwardness, even embarrassment. This in turn can "cause us to shy away from connecting with those who are grieving or those who are dying." With anecdotes and direct guidance, this book helps us all prepare to open ourselves to an engaged experience with the dying process.
Summary:Dr. Penny Sartori's book is based on her extensive doctoral research and her 17 years of experience as a nurse in intensive care. Through documented research, anecdotal evidence and case studies, Sartori shares rich details from those who have reported near-death experiences while in hospital and makes the argument that those who have navigated this phenomenon have much to teach us about death—and life.
Summary:This book by Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick presents "accounts by the dying and those who have been with the dying in their final hours" in order to help readers to see and understand death as a process, not a single end moment. The evidence gathered here "suggests we are more than brain function, and that something—soul or spirit or consciousness—will continue in some form or another for a while at least." The ultimate goal being that with understanding we may all be helped in getting closer to having a "good death."
Summary:The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford (1964)—the classic exposé that reveals the inner workings of the American funeral industry with humour and insight. Robert Gottlieb says in his editor’s note in the edition of Mitford’s book published 36 years after the original (in 2000), “Unfortunately, the corrective is as necessary today as it was then.”
Summary:Grave Matters: A Journey Through the American Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris (2008)—Environmental journalist Harris follows families who opted out of chemical embalming and fancy caskets, elaborate and costly funerals, and who embraced instead a range of natural options.
In Harris’s preface he says that green burials are “just one of many strategies we’re embracing in search of more meaningful, more fitting, and, ultimately, more natural alternatives to the generic send-off proffered by the local funeral home. And if my research and travels are any indication, it’s doing nothing less than rewriting—and, in the process, re-righting—the American Way of Death.”
Summary:Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson (2011)—Slocum—once an investigative reporter who was shocked to learn how difficult it is to apprehend information the funeral industry routinely keeps from the public it serves—is now the executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Carlson is the executive director of the Funeral Ethics Organization. They team up with this book to inform consumers of their rights and to propose legal reforms.
In Slocum’s preface, he says, “When you read this book, I hope you will have many of the same reactions I did when I started digging beneath the surface of the American way of death. I want you to be surprised at the options you didn’t know you had and emerge knowledgeable enough to have frank conversation with your family about the things you, and they, do and don’t want in a funeral. I also hope you will be indignant enough to join your local nonprofit FCA, or start one if none exists in your area. … The FCA cares about protecting every individual’s right to choose the last hurrah that fits her taste and her budget.”
Summary:A home-burial movement is getting started in Australia, too. This documentary profiles the work of those trying to reclaim the care of their dead from large funeral businesses who monopolize the industry across the country: Tender Funerals: A Community Undertaking
Summary:“What is the single most prevalent fear for humans? Death. And what is the single most healing act available to humans? Love. In caring for the dead, we love. As an act of love, we are able to transform our overwhelming fear into something that fills us with awe.”
“Like many Westerners at the turn of the 21st century, my family and I had not had much to do with death,” says author Katherine Ashenburg. “In their 20s, my daughters had four living grandparents. Hannah had been to only two funerals in her life. This was our first experience with sudden death at a young age.”
The book, which emerged from Ashenberg’s observations of her daughter’s intuitive mourning process when Hannah’s fiancé was killed in a car accident, explores the delicate dance we do to transport ourselves back to the land of the living after we lose someone we love.
Prominent critic, poet and memoirist Sandra M. Gilbert explores death and dying after the untimely loss of her husband. She weaves cultural history, her personal experience, literature and current events to examine our relationship with death in the 21st century.