What is Death Positivity?
In recent years, the term ‘death positivity’ has been circulating. But what is meant by death positivity? Death positivity is a movement of attitude towards both life and death that emphasises the importance of having open and honest discussions about death and the circle of life. Whilst this is a new movement, the philosophy of death positivity is far from modern. Death positivity has appeared to re-emerge as a result of society’s construct of death a taboo in the modern world. Society has appeared to detach itself from the acceptance of death. As medical breakthroughs have occurred in recent history, death has intruded less on our everyday lives. Therefore, we are left to think about the realities of death less and less, much less than past societies would have.
Death positivity aims to present the concept of death as something which is not to be feared or hidden from. Rather, it is something which is natural, happens to all of us, and should be talked about to avoid a stigma. Some people suffer from a chronic fear of death, but people who are behind the death positive moment believe that this fear can be combatted with open discussion from an early age. It is believed that individuals should always take an open approach when thinking and talk about death to help to break down the taboo which surrounds the topic of death. Likewise, the causes of death should not be feared and should be included in the discussion.
What death positivity is not
The movement of death positivity does not concern itself with any trivialisation or glorification of the subject of death. Death positivity also does not encourage people to view death as a good thing, or something which is desired.
Instead, death positivity preaches the inevitability of death and that death is something which links all living things, whether that be a human or an animal.
It is important to note that death positivity is not affiliated with any organisation, religion or anything of that nature. It is considered more of an attitude that can be taken by anyone, rather than a doctrine or set of beliefs by which a person would have to ascribe to. It is a free movement, which involves complete autonomy.
Why is death positivity important?
For so many people, the stigma associated with death and discussion around the subject can prevent them from openly talking about it, meaning they develop anxieties and fears based on the concept of death. It can also mean that people struggle to grieve in a way which suits them and helps them.
Due to the unfortunate taboo, we often hide away from death and do not confront it directly, even when trying to comfort a friend who may have lost a loved one. Furthermore, it can deter us from making the necessary choices towards the end of our life needed to prepare for your eventual passing or someone else’s eventual passing.
The fear of death may result in the bottling up of emotions, so when the time comes that a loved one does pass, the grieving process will be a lot tougher.
Of course, everyone grieves in their own way – there is no right or wrong way. Death positivity does not claim that there is a correct way to grieve, only that by removing the barriers can lead to a healthier way of grieving. The movement aims to equip people with the ability to deal with all the challenges and trials that they may face when met with the death of a loved one and deal with these in a constructive way.
It is also the case that many people may be surprised as to how much they are liberated from their anxieties thanks to subscribing to death positivity.
How can you get involved?
Death positivity is more of a state of mind that is adopted by individuals than an organised movement. However, there are a number of organisations which adhere to the ideals of the state of mind that is death positivity, such as The Order of Good Death. This organisation provides a more focussed outlet for the ideas of death positivity.
You can start your shift in view on death by simply aiming to talk with your loved ones about the end of your life and the end of their lives and what the wishes that come with that are. You should also ask some important questions such as; “do you have a will?”, “how do you want to spend your last moments?”, what kind of funeral would like to have?”, “what are your views on what happens after death?”. Questions like those may be a good place to start if you are wanting to open up discussion about the concept of death.
If you are coming towards the end of your life, you can be the one to open discussion if you so wish – since it is you, this should break the stigma that may be felt by your loved ones who may feel it is inappropriate to discuss with you.
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