The seeds of the “death positivity” movement started in the early seventies, around the time Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families, and Ernest Becker published the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death (1973), which argues human behaviour is motivated by our fear of death.
In 2011, a Brit named Jon Underwood took the death conversation to a whole new level when he played host to the first Death Café. His theory that organizing safe places for people to talk about death might help them accept it, plan for it and hopefully live the time they have left, whether it be a few months or a few decades, as joyfully as possible.
The model has grown, and, as of today, according to deathcafe.com, there are 15,000 death cafés in 82 countries.
How to join the death positivity movement and live better for it
There is an app to help you prepare for the inevitable end: WeCroak.com
This app is inspired by a Bhutanese folk saying: To be a happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily. The app sends reminders – at random times throughout the day – to stop, breathe and contemplate death. Normalizing mortality in a non-threatening way helps us to “accept what we must, to let go of things that don’t matter and honor the things that do,” according to wecroak.com.
Read up on it too: From Here to Eternity: Travelling the World to Find the Good Death
Caitlin Doughty, a Los Angeles-based mortician, funeral home operator and founder of The Order of the Good Death is a leader in the death-positivity movement. In 2017, she published what many consider the definitive book on how to be more death positive and chronicles her travels around the world as discovers how other cultures care for the dead. Doughty first gained public notice thanks to her popular Ask a Mortician video series on YouTube, which has almost two million subscribers.
Tune into a podcast: The Art of Dying Well
St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX, operates The Center for the Art of Dying Well and runs a series of podcasts that aim to make death and dying something we can all talk about openly, without discomfort or fear. The centre’s website also offers practical and spiritual support to those facing the prospect of death and dying.
Meet up and talk about dying at a death café near you: Visit deathcafe.com
This website is a valuable tool for anyone – anywhere – who would like attend their first death café. It provides information on all forthcoming death cafés around the world, both in-person and virtual. There is also an online guide for how to hold your own death café. A not-for-profit organization, its goal is “to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives,” according to the website.
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