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Coming to Terms with Death & Dying

by Tennille Ziegler

Good Magazine, May / June 2021

Death is one of life's certainties but it's rarely discussed. Is it time to end avoiding the end?

Last year when Covid entered our lives, we all faced the concept of death a little more directly than perhaps we had done before. Whether we've lost someone or not, we can probably agree that the thought of dying is scary. However in many cultures, death is not feared, in fact it's celebrated. If you look at it logically, it's something we all have to face in our lives at some point. No one is immune to it.

So where did this notion of fear come from? How can we work to overcome it, or at least make the idea of dying or losing a loved one seem a little more comprehensible?

Way back in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, most people died at home, cared for by family. Changes in those customs arrived along with the 21st century. With medical advancements, more people were dying at a hospital or in a hospice. A fear of death developed and, in particular, a fear of corpses. and so, the funeral industry was born. This was influential in death becoming increasingly hidden from pubic view, rather than a familiar part of life.

Melanie Mayell, founder of the Death Matters Conference and Death Cafē in Christchurch, says death was not part of her childhood. Growing up in the 70s, her well-meaning parents felt it kinder to shield her and her siblings from the dying and the dead.

Mayell's key takeaways:

  • Everything is impermanent. Practise savouring and appreciating what is here right now.

  • Death reminds us that we are here for a limited time. Death encourages us to find out what gives us joy and meaning, and then urges us to shift our priorities accordingly.

  • This quote by Eckhart Tolle: When death is denied, life loses its depth. We cannot be truly alive without maintaining an awareness of death.

  • When we can honour death as the ultimate ending, I think we'll learn to look at all endings in our lives more consciously.

  • There are unseen worlds waiting to be explored.


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