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marinelife's avatar

Are You Comfortable With Death? What Can We Do as a Culture to Make Death a Natural Part of Life?

Asked by marinelife (62146points) October 15th, 2008

Want to kill a party? Just bring up the topic of death. We get no preparation for it in schools or even on a practical level from our faiths.

What are your ideas? Do you think changes are needed?

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32 Answers

GAMBIT's avatar

Yes I am very comfortable with the idea of dying.
It is my hope that I will be one of the fortunate ones who will pass away in my sleep but if I become gravely ill I hope I can take my suffering with some type of dignity and honor. I am more concerned with how I live my life than how I will die. I want to leave everlasting memories to my children and grandchildren so that they will always know that I loved them.

jamjar's avatar

Is death not a natural part of life already? Personally I’m comfortable with the fact I am going to die, I’m just slightly concerned in the manner it may happen. I think I’m more uncomfortable with the thought of growing old.

deaddolly's avatar

This is a hard one. I remember my mother reading her “preperation for death” book in the years before she died. Yet, I was told (she passed in the early hours in a hospital…I was on my way to her) she asked the nurse if she was going to die just before she did. I’d like to think she wasn’t afraid, tho I know she had more she wanted to do it life.
I should’ve been reading that book, because I was a basket case. A very difficult time in my life. Saying good-bye, letting go. I wanted to let myself go as well.
My mother’s illiness lasted a short 3 months. My father dropped dead while at work from a massive heart attack. I can’t tell you which one was worse to handle as a family…
I see death in two ways…in films, as not being real.
Then in real life, as being too real…so final.
We all know that we have to die, sooner or later.
Yes, I think changes are needed. Some parents take children to wakes; others shield them from death.
My daughter had a classmate pass out and die a few days later from an embolism in 5th grade. I took her to his wake. She still keeps his photo in her room…
Yet, kids will shoot other kids over a pair of shoes, without thinking twice.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I do think it needs to be talked about more, and not just in movies or TV.
Sorry, for the rant…and for probably not answering your question at all! ;)

Kiev749's avatar

It will happen. just like taxes.
Accept it.

jvgr's avatar

I have no fear of dying.

This topic, though, is not one I think any government body should be allowed to interefere. If it becomes a part of education, the religious war will surely escalate and the concept of teaching that death is natural will be left in the dust.

My father was a minister (and the son of a minister) and my mother was a church-goer and career nurse. I learned my outlook on death from them and they had the ability to talk about it with no religious connotations.

So please teach your children to have a healthy concept of death, but don’t let the governement get involved.

fireside's avatar

Are we talking about our own death, or the death of loved ones?

For me, I have been attending visitations and funerals since I was very young partly because my father was quite old when he had me and he had a large family growing up, most of whom are gone now. So to me, death of a family member is a natural process.

However, I don’t have any siblings and both of my parents are still alive, so I don’t really know how I will react to the loss of someone so close to me.

As for an individual handling their own death, the people who have lived good lives seem to be able to handle it better. I suppose because there is less nagging doubt about things they may have done differently. My grandmother went within six months or so and I remember seeing her at the end and her thoughts were about the need to hold on and see the family members and be part of their plans. Once she was able to release her responsibility to them, she slipped away quite peacefully, to my knowledge.

So, to directly answer your question Marina, yes I do think that some changes are needed. People need to be exposed to it and not sheltered from it because the act of sheltering them, gives the impression that death is something to hide or fear. There should be more celebration of the person’s life and how they would want everyone to get along when they were gone.

I also think there should be less focus on building the individual ego or at least a comparable focus on developing a sense of acceptance to what life brings at you. This will help people to stop trying to grasp at the things that can’t be changed. That will allow grief to be lessened because you instead focus on the happy times and know that you did everything you could to be with and learn from and teach those that have touched your life, even for a short time.

Allie's avatar

I’m not afraid of dying. Being afraid of death is just being afraid of something inevitable. It happens to everyone sooner or later.
Onto the second part of the question: You asked what can faiths do to make us more accepting of death. I always wondered if it could have been faiths that made us fear it in the first place. For example, the whole judgment deal. If we weren’t about to be judged on how we lived our lives and then “sentenced” based on the decision, would people still be scared? Maybe people fear the judgment, not death itself. (Just my thoughts..)

SoapChef's avatar

@deaddolly
Interesting observation about how some parents shield their children from death. My folks did and now six years after the fact it still doesn’t compute that my Dad is really gone. My mind still tells me that death is something that happens to other people or in the movies. It still doesn’t seem real.
I applaud you for taking your daughter to her friends wake. I think it was healthy and healing. I think communicating about death in a sensitive and enlightened manner is a gift we can give our children.

deaddolly's avatar

@soapchef I’ve never shielded by daughter from real life. I think talking about things make children understand better. Those who tell kids relatives ‘went away’ aren’t helping their kids learn to grieve and cope.

We actually had complete Catholic Masses for many a hamster! It helped to say good bye.

shadling21's avatar

For some reason, this topic makes me think of the movie Bambi. The way it has affected the childhoods of so many.

I’m far from comfortable with it. I don’t quite know how to articulate this… I’ve been able to muse on death without being too emotionally scarred – mainly because only distant relatives of mine have died. While I was sad for them to be gone, I was mostly mystified by the things that I didn’t know about them while they lived. I didn’t know that my grandmother had a passion for social dancing when she was younger until it was mentioned at her funeral. That information made me sad for conversations that could have happened, connections that could have been made. It’s probably very different than losing someone close to you.

I hope that when it happens, I’ll be able to accept it.

@deaddolly – Do you think you could have ever been fully prepared for what was to happen?

deaddolly's avatar

@shadling I think, if I knew someone was suffering and that death would be a relief, I would’ve been better prepared.
But you’re never prepared to lose your loved ones; you assume they’ll be there forever.

Which makes it all the more important for ppl to talk to eachother and tell your loved ones, no matter how much of an idiot they may be, that you love them and are glad they are in your life.

LostInParadise's avatar

Being clinically depressed, death is an issue for me. I will not bother you with the details.

As a culture, one way to make death a more natural part of life would be to de-emphasize individualism in favor of community. If people moved around less and could identify with the people in their town, it would be easier to feel a part of something larger and to get a sense that one has left behind something and contributed toward something that is ongoing. It would also be easier to keep tabs on former residents, so one would have some chance of being remembered.

Skyrail's avatar

Death, being so final, deciding, so definite, unavoidable, yes I fear it. Something with as much power as death scares me to a certain extent, but it doesn’t take command over my life.

As for how to make it a ‘more comfortable topic’ so to speak within society, I couldn’t answer. There’s been a number of good answers above. What I think however will probably form itself over time, we’ll see :)

Harp's avatar

One contributing factor in our discomfort with death is the increasing expectation that our medical technology will always be able to keep us going just a little bit longer. Not so long ago, almost any illness could be life threatening. In my great-grandparents’ day, a bad cough would have raised the specter of death; now it just raises the specter of a co-pay. All of this feeds nicely into our tendency to avoid thinking about our demise, so that death, when it comes, is more difficult for us to process.

Another factor may be that we’ve largely left our agrarian roots behind. Farm life, at least the preindustrial version, used to comport a rigorous schooling in the life cycle. Birth and death were on constant display among the livestock, and there was a good chance that Grandma would die in the extended family home and be laid out in the parlor. In our suburban environments, death is something that happens elsewhere.

Developing a realistic sense of our mortality and preparing ourselves mentally for it now requires a conscious effort. Keeping in mind that death is an ever-present possibility isn’t ghoulish, it’s realistic. And it makes life richer; we’re more likely to do what needs doing, say what needs saying, and not waste our time. I have a friend who, in a determined effort to come to grips with mortality, used to go to funeral homes and attend visitations of people whom he didn’t know, just to confront death in concrete terms.

One encouraging development is the increased acceptance of the Hospice movement. Getting death out of hospitals and back into the home (or a more home-like environment) when possible does a lot to make death a less alien experience for all concerned. It also creates a psychological space where the process of accepting death can begin beforehand.

shadling21's avatar

Wow, Harp… That’s a Great Answer if I ever saw one.

fireside's avatar

GA Harp – my Grandmother was in Hospice care at a facility. That definitely allowed for more peace of mind than any hospital setting I have ever experienced.

marinelife's avatar

Thank you all for the responses so far—all thoughtful and real.

@dd Your response was exactly what I was wondering about.

The question was not about fear of death but about the lack of discussion of it and comfort with it in our culture.

I am a huge fan of the hospice movement.

augustlan's avatar

I have to admit that just reading this thread made me a little anxious. I never expected to live as long as I have, and always feel like time is running out. I have no reason to feel like that, but I do. I have many health problems, but none are an imminent threat to me, so who knows why it makes me nervous? I hope to make my peace with death long before it actually comes…

deaddolly's avatar

@augustian fear of the unknown and leaving behind everything you know and love.

marinelife's avatar

@augustlan May your time among us be long!

girlofscience's avatar

@augustlan: How old are you? Why hadn’t you expected to live as long as you already have?

flameboi's avatar

I am, I mean, is part of life, I guess I’d like to know when is going to happen, I keep thinking that life is extremely fragile, yesterday I saw a dead man in the higheway on my way back home with my little brother, he was hit by a car and I thought “I just want to be in my bed at the end of the day”

deaddolly's avatar

It is fragile….the older you get, the more things there are that you realize you have yet to do. You realize time is running out and you may not be able to do them. You never know what’s around the corner.
The old ‘live each day like it’s your last’ saying is so very true and important.

augustlan's avatar

@girlofs: I am 41. Hardly ancient I know, but I suffered a great deal in childhood and I think that’s what led me to believe I’d die young. 1) I had an uncle who molested me until I was 13 years old. When I finally stood up to him and screamed at him to stop, I spent over a year thinking he would kill me. I even carried a note in my pocket indicating that if I was murdered, he’d be the guilty party. 2) I had (and have) lots of health problems. I spent too much time in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Even though most of the health issues are minor, some aren’t…I always think it’s all gonna’ add up to an early death.

deaddolly's avatar

lurve to you, Augustian. it’s all the way you see it though…stay positive. It makes a big difference.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks guys.

shadling21's avatar

What’s that saying? “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”?

May your life be long and full, augustlan…

deaddolly's avatar

@shadling21 Yeah, I do think what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I don’t think a lot of ppl realize how strong they really are.

dynamicduo's avatar

Life is 100% terminal. From this viewpoint, what’s there to be upset/anxious about?

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i think that people are pretty insensitive to death (in most cases) if you think about it. we tend to think about a lot of deaths in terms of casualties and not actual people getting killed. maybe this is just the case with people we don’t know personally, because obviously it isn’t that casual when we’re talking about ourselves or people we know, but that’s the way i see it. guns and whatnot are toys, gorey violent movies are entertainment. i judge that we’re pretty comfortable with death.

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