Each body has its own way of shutting down due to illness or injury. In a natural death, your breathing will simply slow until it stops. That is out of our control. Eventually all of our bodies will wear down to nothing more than ashes and dust. But American culture struggles with accepting mortality. We don’t like to age; we don’t like ugly. Unfortunately, neither idealizing nor ignoring death will make it go away.
Somewhere along the line, I developed this theory that all jokes are simply little brushes with death. Man walks down the street whistling, slips on a banana peel and falls. He’s strolling along, ‘I wonder where you get a good sandwich around here’ and smack! He finds himself face to face with his mortality; bruising tailbone, and ego, alike.
Fans of the Netflix sci-fi thrillers The OA and The Discovery, both of which weave tales of scientists researching the afterlife, may be shocked to know it’s not just the stuff of fiction. While the haunting plotlines are (thankfully) fantasy, their themes echo real clinical research into what happens to consciousness at the moment of death.
In the Victorian era, birth and death happened at home, so people knew more or less what to expect. But that’s not true for us! And because we don’t talk much about death and dying we are left with whispered stories, scenes from movies, and random bits that cross social media.
While many of us have heard of that phenomenon (and ones like it) referred to as a “near-death experience,” Parnia prefers to call it an “after-death experience.”
We don’t want to diminish how much palliative care physician BJ Miller’s TED Talk, “Not Whether But How,” will move you and get you thinking, but we can’t resist
We all wonder what we’ll do, how we’ll react, if (or when) we receive news of our own or a loved one’s terminal diagnosis—and how we’ll go on living when we have that information.
Why do so many doctors feel that giving more treatment is the only way they can express their care and commitment?
Sheila Kitzinger was a “champion of women’s rights in childbirth.” She spent her career pioneering birth plans that secured choice and autonomous control for women giving birth.
There’s nothing comfortable about considering that the people we love most in the world are eventually going to die. The alternative, though—ignoring that it will, indeed, happen one day—can leave us in a much less workable spot.
What does it mean to offer words of candour, reassurance and love when we’re communicating with those who are facing the end of their lives?
When Joan, a close friend to New Orleans designer Candy Chang died, the artist and urban planner was moved to invent and create the “Before I Die” wall on the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood, using chalkboards and chalk.
WNYC Radio’s program Radiolab recently presented an episode all about mortality—it’s thought-provoking and embedded with fascinating questions, starting with “Do we have to die?” and ending with “How do we deal with dying?”
What Comes Next and How to Like It is a memoir by Abigail Thomas that’s not particularly about death or dying. But it is, without a doubt, about the inscrutable and unpredictable things that life delivers up to us, including plenty of change and not an insignificant amount of loss—something Thomas knows a thing or two about.
Tracy Picha, When You Die’s associate producer in 2015 and ’16, has had a few changes in her life since learning, considering, wondering about mortality. Far from a macabre pursuit, it’s rekindled friendships and fine-tuned notions of what a good life means.
“We are scared of death and I think that is in large part because we hide it away, out of sight and avoid it until we have to,” says Nancy
Death frequently comes without warning. But when tragedy strikes, there is a certain suddenness and violence that can have overwhelming effects on us, our families, and our society.
In Nancy Berns’s presentation, “Beyond Closure: The Space Between Joy and Grief,” she asks the question, “When bad things happen, do we need closure?” Berns says no.
Caitlin Doughty, founder of the organization The Order of the Good Death lets us in on just what happens to pacemakers, titanium hips and other implants after we die.
The Harley School in Rochester, N.Y., wanted students to excel in their academics — but also in life. That’s why the private school offered a class called “hospice.”
In the average North American home, what we now call the living room was once referred to as the “parlour”—a place where, before the 1930s, it was not uncommon to place the dead body of a family member for viewing and mourning.
Kate Braestrup shares the story of Nina, a five-year-old who insisted to her parents that she needed to visit her dead cousin and best friend Andy, a four-year-old, at a nearby funeral parlor.
“There is nothing on Earth – nothing inevitable, anyway – that we are prepared for less than death, and I just don’t understand why that is. Where is our guidance for this? This thing that every single one us will have to face?”
We put together a few links for you about death conversations we found helpful. Enjoy!
Considering what happens to our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones after death is a new thing for many of us.
Los Angeles-based mortician, Caitlin Doughty, self-described death-acceptance advocate, and creator of The Order of the Good Death walks us through the two main options available for dealing with dead bodies in North America.
Teacher, writer and coach, Heather Plett found herself in the role of student when her mom was dying and her family brought her home to do so.
When we’re facing the most challenging moments that life has to offer, when we’re feeling most broken, it’s amazing what shows up.
One of the biggest challenges for any of us when it comes to issues around death is facing our own fears about it.
Given her willingness to talk about any topic, it’s perhaps no surprise that writer and TV star Lena Dunham experiences more flashes of what she calls “mortality awareness” than the average 20-something. But thoughts of death are not reserved for the aged.
The way of death in North America is not the way in other cultures. Anthropologist Kelli Swazey asks, “What would life be like if the dead literally lived alongside you?”