Netherlands nuns convert former battlefield to “natural burial” cemetery

Natural burials are a return to the old-world way, which avoids chemicals and resource waste.

By J-P Mauro

In a gorgeous plot of land that was once the site of the Battle of Arnhem in World War II, the Trappistine Sisters of the Abbey of Koningsoord in the Netherlands have opened a new cemetery where they will be providing natural burials.

“Natural burial” is a term that describes the burial practices of humankind for the majority of history. The process avoids embalming chemicals, as well as steel or cement vaults that are placed underground to protect the coffin from the natural course of decomposition.

These natural burials are becoming more popular today, as they are substantially more eco-friendly than the modern burial. According to Order of the Good Death, a website that supports the return to natural burial, modern burial practices can take a hefty toll on the environment, and squander valuable non-renewable and non-biodegradable resources. They write:

“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood … 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.”

At the Trappistines’ new cemetery, known as Koningsakker — King’s Field — the nuns are trying to remedy these ecosystem compromising factors by returning to the old methods of burial. Hettie van der Ven of Crux news reports that bodies there are not encased within a casket, but rather wrapped in a burial shroud made from linen, jute, hemp and wool that will biodegrade much faster. This avoids wasting natural resources and burying forever materials that would have impeded the decomposition process.

The sisters told Katholiek Nieuwsblad Foundation, a Dutch Catholic news organization, that they were inspired to open the cemetery by their American sister-house, The Trappistine Sisters of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Cross, in Virginia, who opened their own natural burial cemetery several years ago. The cemetery will provide the sisters with funds to sustain them, along with a book bindery and a restoration workshop.

While originally intended to serve as a Catholic cemetery, Koningsakker is now a public cemetery and the nuns welcome people of all faiths and walks of life, even those who come from foreign lands. The nuns feel that this was the right way to go, as it gives their graveyard an opportunity to impact a much wider range of the community. Riny Bergervoet, the cemetery’s location manager, said:

“Natural burials are a perfect fit for this day and age. At the end of their lives, people are looking for connection with the ground they came from and on which they are living … Choosing this as a resting place is a testimony to one’s identity. People know that we are praying for them on a daily basis, which they find very uplifting.”

CruxNews reports that Koningsakker currently only has four people buried on their property, but dozens have already reserved a plot. It’s only a matter of time before this “natural cemetery” will be full of people visiting their beloved lost.

Complete Article HERE!

A Documentary of Funeral Care for Abandoned AIDS Patients

With restrained camera work, “Departing Gesture” shows the process of a solitary funeral and burial, tended to by funeral-home staff.

By Sarah Larson

Jonathan Napolitano and Brian Bolster’s eleven-minute documentary “Departing Gesture” opens inside a suburban-style funeral home, with a long shot of a visitation room, where a white-haired man in a red necktie appears to be setting up for a wake. The casket is open, the flower arrangements generous and autumnal. The only people we see are the man in the coffin and the man taking care of him. “It happens more than you think,” a man’s says, in a voice-over. “Maybe ten or twelve deaths a year, I think, where their family would abandon them and never come back.” The film gives us a minute to contemplate this—the screen goes dark and shows a title card, and then the camera lingers on an exterior shot of the tidy funeral home. Who would abandon their late relatives, and why?

“Departing Gesture,” the first film in The New Yorker’s new series highlighting short documentaries, sheds light on this story patiently and with care. It focusses on the Sebrell Funeral Home, in Ridgeland, Mississippi, whose director, Trey Sebrell, is the person we have just heard speaking. Bolster’s camera observes the funeral home, both its public-facing rooms and its behind-the-scenes areas—offices, an embalming room—as we listen to Sebrell talk. “It’s one of those professions that, once you’re involved, you feel like you’re serving,” he says. “Even if I did not love working for myself, I still would be a funeral director and an embalmer at another funeral home in Mississippi.” As Sebrell goes about his work, in a suit and cufflinks, his movements have a calm certitude.

Sebrell Funeral Home has a partnership with a local charity, Grace House, which provides care and housing for people with H.I.V./AIDS; Sebrell cares for its dead, some of whom are ultimately abandoned by the family members who survive them. These families don’t hold a service and don’t want their relative’s remains. In the film, we watch the process of a solitary funeral, of sorts, and a burial, tended to by funeral-home staff.

Many of us have been in funeral homes like Sebrell’s and have attended memorials of various sizes—the wakes that teem with mourners, the calling hours that feel underpopulated. Either circumstance can enhance the sad surreality of death; in this case, the sadness is heightened further still. Bolster’s camera remains static, at a respectful distance, as it watches people at work: a man with flowers, a woman tending to the deceased’s makeup, pallbearers bringing the casket to the hearse. Other shots show us caskets, a lectern, the embalming room and its tools, embroidered seat covers that say “pallbearers.” The restrained camerawork subtly heightens the contrast between life and death, movement and stillness.

Bolster and Napolitano met on the film-festival circuit and have worked together on several projects; for “Departing Gesture,” Bolster shot and Napolitano edited. They met Sebrell in the course of working on a feature, still in development, about H.I.V./AIDS in the American South. The South has become the epicenter of the crisis in the United States, owing to factors including poverty, cuts to health-care funding, and social stigma. And H.I.V. infection in rural areas and smaller cities is on the rise. “I’m very interested in issues of regret,” Bolster told me. As a boy growing up in Massachusetts in the eighties, knowing that he was gay, Bolster watched reports of the unfolding AIDS crisis and the ignorance and fear that surrounded it. “Families abandoned their kids in hospitals,” he said. “I thought, This is what’s going to happen to me.” In 2019, an era of PrEP, undetectable H.I.V. viral loads in well-cared-for patients, and nationwide marriage equality, it can be stunning to see and hear about present-day ignorance that reminds us of decades past—for example, when Sebrell mentions a local funeral home that refused to collect a man’s body after learning that he was gay. “Departing Gesture” gives us a window into such stories with compassion, through Sebrell’s empathy and its own.

Complete Article HERE!

New program provides mobile end-of-life support to people in poverty

The new Palliative Outreach Resource Team (PORT) brings compassionate medical care and support to people living in poverty at end-of-life. Dr. Fraser Black,Island Medical Program’s associate dean of student affairs, is a team physician.

Death may be the great equalizer but the availability of good end-of-life care is rarely equitable. Now, a new mobile palliative care program designed to address that inequity is providing care and dignity to people with life-limiting illnesses who are homeless and living in poverty in Victoria. 

The Palliative Outreach Resource Team (PORT) is a collaboration of the University of Victoria, Island Health, Victoria Cool Aid and Victoria Hospice. PORT acts as a bridge between people with serious illness and their caregivers, palliative care, and other health and social support systems. 

The program is built upon lessons learned from a three-year study led by UVic palliative care researcher Kelli Stajduhar, lead investigator of the Equity in Palliative Approaches to Care program with the Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health and the School of Nursing. The study followed 25 people living homeless or barely housed while struggling with life-threatening medical conditions. The 2018 report Too little, too late: How we fail vulnerable Canadians as they die and what to do about it, found that homeless and barely housed people have to navigate many systems—health care, housing, social care—and that as their health declines, their ability to access these systems also declines. The big takeaway: despite a terminal diagnosis of cancer, heart failure or lung disease, those who were able to access palliative care actually experienced an improvement in quality of life. 

For PORT’s first year, the clinical team will be funded by Island Health and Saint Elizabeth Health Community Enterprise, a social enterprise with a commitment to end-of-life care for marginalized communities. Mirroring similar models in Toronto and Calgary, people can self-refer or be referred by their caregivers to a palliative care nurse and a physician who provide whole person care, manage the pain and symptoms related to life-limiting illness, support chosen family and caregivers, and provide grief and bereavement support. Chosen family and caregivers in this population include “street family” and shelter, housing, harm reduction, and peer and support workers from inner-city community organizations who are doing the bulk of end-of-life care for people living in poverty. 

The Vancouver Foundation is funding the UVic-led evaluation of the program, as well as the development of initiatives to increase access to and quality of palliative care in the inner city. The PORT team, which began service in July, has supported three deaths and is currently supporting seven people who are dying.

“For almost a decade, providers in our community have cobbled together resources to meet the needs of our clients who are living with unmet palliative needs,” says Grey Showler, director of health and support services at Cool Aid. “We are thrilled to see PORT come to life.”

“Over the next year, we will be implementing this model of palliative care in collaboration with organizations and people who have expertise in care and support for homeless and vulnerably housed people at end-of-life including street families,” says Jill Gerke, director of the palliative and end-of-life care program with Island Health. “We are using research and promising practices to inform the development of this model adapted to our community that bridges existing support and services.”

“Palliative care isn’t a ‘thing’ or a ‘place’ but an approach that focuses on whole-person care for the person, their family and community. This approach necessitates a community response where everyone sees their responsibility and their part in care for dying people,” says Stajduhar.

Complete Article HERE!

The art of doing makeup on a dead body

Applying makeup on a dead person is not much different than on a living person, one funeral director says.

A funeral director says that applying makeup on a body is not much different than on a living person.

By

Evie Vargas had always been drawn to death. That sounds morbid, or possibly extremely goth, but her interest wasn’t in the afterlife nor the aesthetics. Vargas wanted to pursue a profession rooted in service, and entering the death care industry was a calling — an inexplicable calling that, once she began work, seemed like destiny.

Throughout high school, Vargas considered attending mortuary science school, but worried she wouldn’t be able to handle the sight of a dead body. Still, she knew that a two-year program could lead to an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship, and eventually a mortician job.

To gauge her nerves, Vargas decided to go to a place that would expose her to death firsthand: a funeral home in Illinois.

There, she shadowed an embalmer, who offered her a part-time job after their first session. “He said he saw something in me,” Vargas says, still amazed at how prescient the offer turned out to be. “I didn’t have a license to embalm so I did makeup, dress, and casket.” She’s worked there since graduating from mortuary school.

Even after eight years in the industry, makeup and hair is still a special part of her job, Vargas says. As a funeral director, she does “basically everything” — administrative work, service preparation, meeting with family members, embalming bodies. But she thinks mortuary makeup work is uniquely intimate and significant.

Funeral director Amber Carvaly sets up for a viewing.

Makeup plays a starring role at many funeral services — the last time family members will physically see their loved ones before the casket is closed. These services are usually done by a certified embalmer, a person tasked with cleaning and preparing the body, who takes on the burden of replicating a person’s likeness and essence. Makeup artists — whether embalmers, funeral directors, or freelance workers — find meaning in this ritualistic work of dressing a body, mulling over the details of its presentation, and receiving input from the family. It can help loved ones grieve, artists say, in remembering a person at their best.

Embalming a body and applying eyeshadow seem to demand different skills, but the work contributes to the body’s final presentation. Embalming is typically the first step; fluids are injected into a body during the process to slow its decomposition for the funeral ceremony.

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, the process could give the body a more “life-like” appearance, although it isn’t always required. Amber Carvaly, a funeral director at Undertaking LA in California, doesn’t think embalming is necessary for most natural deaths, although it might firm up the skin more. She says that applying makeup on a body isn’t drastically different than working on a living person.

Carvaly has an array of products in her makeup kit — typically thicker theatrical makeup for discoloration or jaundiced bodies — but drugstore brands like Maybelline Cosmetics work fine. There are little techniques and tricks she’s picked up, for example, in applying lipstick on a dead person’s lips, which are much less firm.

She uses a pigmented gloss or mixes a dry lipstick to paint the color on. Vargas prefers using an airbrush kit for a more natural look, since it provides full coverage and is easier than applying foundation.

Carvaly doesn’t work with bodies as much as she likes to anymore, ever since cremation overtook burials as the preferred means of after-life care in 2015. While there is no proven correlation between price and popularity, cremation is cheaper than a burial. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average burial and viewing costs $8,508, while the average cremation and viewing comes out to $6,260.

Post-death makeup is only a fraction of the cost for burials — an average of $250 per funeral, according to the NFDA — but the added costs aren’t worth it for some, Carvaly says. Many families struggle emotionally and logistically in the aftermath of a death, she adds. The logistics that go into the burial ceremony, especially dress and makeup, are often the last things on their minds.

A common complaint from families is that a body doesn’t look like their living relative. The embalmer might have parted their hair differently or used an unfamiliar lipstick color. Carvaly points out that family members can do makeup on their loved ones before the body is sent to a home. But if they’re uncomfortable with that, she encourages them to assist the embalmer with the makeup and presentation.

“Doing makeup with the family present is extremely rewarding,” she says, adding that family members’ input makes it much easier to capture the aesthetic essence of a person. It’s helpful for the families as well: “When you’re grieving, having a physical or artistic activity can help walk you through it.”

Years before Carvaly went to mortuary school in Los Angeles, she worked as a cosmetologist on film sets. She’s changed careers multiple times — from makeup to nonprofit work to the death care industry. Like Vargas, Carvaly is dedicated to the service aspect of her job, and she sees makeup as a physical manifestation of that service.

In her seven years of work, Carvaly’s found that most people are uncomfortable in the presence of a dead body, even in preparation for the burial. “I’m more than happy to do makeup for a family if this is something they don’t think they have the strength to do,” she says. “But I want them to know that they have options.”

On rare occasions, she brings along makeup or hair tools for families to touch up their loved ones at the service. She once worked on a woman with blonde, beehive-style hair that she struggled to recreate. At the funeral, Carvaly suggested that the woman’s daughters help her touch it up — a request they were initially shocked by.

“Allowing people to be a part of the funeral is important,” Carvaly says. “Keeping that veil of magic up prevents regular people from doing something very valuable.” Families shouldn’t hesitate to ask a funeral home if they can do their loved ones’ hair and makeup, which could reduce costs, she says.

Shifting social norms and new funeral practices, like eco-friendly burial options, have driven homes to find ways to increase profits — often at the expense of families, who are missing out on an opportunity to properly grieve, Carvaly explains.

“There is no law that prohibits people from coming into a home and requesting that they do makeup on the deceased,” she wrote in an e-mail. And while Carvaly feels that her job is a calling, the daily human interaction can be taxing. The most difficult part of being a funeral director, she says, is explaining why people have to pay for certain services that the home offers.

It’s what upsets people the most, but homes also have to pay for overhead expenses — the indirect costs of operating a business. Carvaly’s funeral home, Undertaking LA, opts to rent time and space from another crematory.

Carvaly’s funeral home co-founder, Caitlin Doughty, has found unprecedented success on YouTube under the account Ask A Mortician, a series where Doughty takes questions about her work and about death.

Demystifying death is a big part of Undertaking LA’s mission — to put the dying person and their family back in control of the dying process and the care of the body. It’s a liberal “death positive” approach, one that Carvaly likens to “breaking down the walls and windows” of a rigid centuries-old industry. Vargas feels similarly, and tries to destigmatize the death industry on her YouTube channel.

After a death occurs, families often immediately send the body to a funeral home and don’t interact with their loved ones until the ceremony. And sometimes, they’re taken aback by the body’s made up appearance. Reclaiming the makeup process can be a cathartic first step, as an unexpected outlet for grief, and eventually acceptance of the death itself.

Complete Article HERE!

Deathwives, Death Cafes And Death Doulas.

Learning To Live By Talking About Death.

By Robin Seaton Jefferson

“To die will be an awfully big adventure.” Even Peter Pan, the mischievous little boy who refuses to grow up but rather spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the island of Neverland, attempted to see death in a positive light.

But things were different in 1902 when Peter Pan first appeared in the book “The Little White Bird.” We saw death differently then and treated it more as a part of life. Is it because we believe we’re more likely to avoid it for longer in the 21st century that we seem to shy away from talking about it? Or is it because we have removed ourselves so far from the reality of physically dealing with the dead.

Whatever the reason, a reluctance to face or even talk about dying is largely an American phenomenon. And though there are many and varied ways for families and friends to honor their dead, we don’t seem to want to talk about it until it’s too late. And then we pay others to handle most of it.

But people like Lauren Carroll are trying to change all of that. Carroll and her partner, Erin Merelli, formed Deathwives in hopes of forging a cultural shift which encourages people to think and talk more freely about death. They describe Deathwives as “a collective of professionals who care about the practice of good death.” And they want to educate others about their end of life options which they say should include in-home funerals and death doulas.

“You have the right to a good death,” Carroll said. “We seek to widen the narrative around death and dying and support our community as we remember how to care for one another till the very end.”

A former funeral director and current hospice volunteer, Carroll serves on the board of directors for the National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA). She said she wants to create connections between funeral homes, home funeral educators, death doulas and families. Merelli is a death doula, ceremonialist, funeral officiant and grief counselor. She is often called to sit with people as they die and to “create ritual and sacred space around the dying process.”

Most people don’t know that home funerals are an option available to them, Carroll said. “There have never been laws against this. You have the freedom to die at home and to take care of your loved ones at home. The family legally owns the body even after death in a hospital. The only law is that you have 24 hours after death to refrigerate or cremate the remains.”

According to the NHFA, “keeping or bringing a loved one home after death is legal in every state for bathing, dressing, private viewing and ceremony as the family chooses. Every state recognizes the next-of-kin’s custody and control of the body that allows the opportunity to hold a home vigil. Religious observations, family gatherings, memorials and private events are not under the jurisdiction of the state or professionals in the funeral industry, who have no medico-legal authority unless it is transferred to them when they are paid for service.” The National Home Funeral Alliance offers a list of legal requirements on the books in each state—either statutes that are applicable to all or regulations that fall under the state mortuary board’s set of procedures applicable for licensed funeral directors only.

“Keep this in mind: there are no funeral police,” the alliance states. “And there are exceptions to every rule, many of which happen when someone dies in the middle of an ice storm or a weekend or a holiday or a multitude of other unpredictable circumstances. Even under perfect conditions or professional care, many of these requirements are not logistically or practically enforceable.”

When America was a new nation, families cared for their dead in their own homes. The preparation, dressing and readying for a funeral was done there, and the caskets were typically built by the family themselves. As parlors gained popularity, families held their funerals in them. Traditionally rooms filled with a family’s finest possessions, parlors were ideal locations for honoring the dead. The parlors of grander homes even had a “death door” for the removal of the deceased family member, as it was considered improper to remove a body through a door the living entered.

The Civil War brought about the practice of embalming, as so many men were dying far from home, and the practice allowed the time needed to bring the bodies home to their families. With embalming came the appearance of funeral homes, funeral directors, morticians and undertakers all over the United States. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) as well as the first school of mortuary science—the Cincinnati School of Embalming, now known as the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science—were both formed in 1882. It was really the beginning of the same funeral process we use today, though advances in the profession have improved the ways that morticians care for the body as well as the ways that families can remember their dead.

And new trends on how to honor the dead and even just how we talk about death are being presented all the time. Environmentally-friendly funerals are being offered by so-called “green” funeral homes. Advocates of these services say that it’s less expensive, uses less natural resources and eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde.

And apparently we’re using a lot. According to an article by Tech Insider, more than 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde are put into the ground along with dead bodies every year in the US. In addition, conventional burials in the US every year use 30 million board feet of hardwoods, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 104,272 tons of steel, and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete, Tech insider reported. “The amount of casket wood alone is equivalent to about 4 million acres of forest and could build about 4.5 million homes.”

According to the NFDA, a green funeral may include no embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products; the use of sustainable biodegradable clothing, shroud or casket; the use of recycled paper products; serving organic food; locally-grown organic flowers; funeral guest carpooling; and natural or green burial.

“In a purist natural or green burial, the body is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting,” the NFDA states. Any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic and of sustainable material. Traditional standing headstones are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers. Some cemeteries use GPS to mark the locations of gravesites. A natural or green burial may also simply mean burial without embalming, in a biodegradable casket without a vault, when permitted by a cemetery.”

Jon Hallford, also a member of the Deathwives Collective, owns Return to Nature Burial and Cremation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hallford told 9NEWS.com in Denver, Colorado last month that he plans to begin offering aquamation as an alternative to cremation. “Aquamation uses an alkaline hydrolysis system that consists of a metal chamber that uses water and lye for the cremation process, which is a cleaner process than the traditional cremation,” 9NEWS reported. “Once he has the system in place, he’ll be the only funeral home in Colorado to offer the service.”

The environment isn’t the only reason we’re talking more about death. Death doulas are becoming more mainstream. Just as a doula or birth companion provides guidance and support to a pregnant woman before, during or after the first days of the life of her baby, the death or end of life doula accompanies the dying person and their loved ones through the final months, weeks and days of their life. The doula provides support, resources, education and friendship for this period of life, whether it lasts a year or a day.

Then there are now so-called “Death Cafes,” where people gather to share cake and coffee, tea or hot chocolate and talk about death. A “Death Café is a space where you talk about death to become more engaged with life. Such is the paradox of a Death Café,” writes Abby Buckley about a meeting at the Alchemy Café in Gawler, South Australia. “We came from all walks of life, aged 6 months to 64 years old, from all over South Australia but met as equals because we all have one thing in common. We know we are going to die. We don’t have many spaces in our lives or our culture that are conducive to talking about death and dying. But people are hungry to talk about their experiences, to listen to others and to reflect on death.”

Death Cafés typically offer visitors an opportunity to discuss death without judgment, without prescribed ideology, and without any sales pitches. They are not grief counseling or bereavement sessions. There are no agendas, objectives or themes, rather they are often philosophical—and at times, humorous—discussions about death.

Death Café is both the name of the organization that created the format of the death-discussion groups and the term for the meetings themselves. To date, some 9,045 Death Cafes have taken place in 65 countries—4669 of them in the United States—since September 2011.

Death Café calls Death Café a “social franchise,” meaning that people who sign up to the organization’s guide and principles can use the name Death Café, post events to the website deathcafe.com and talk to the press as an affiliate of Death Café.

The Death Café model was developed by the late Jon Underwood and his mother, Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Swiss sociologist and ethnologist, Bernard Crettaz.

It’s not surprising the concept of Death Cafes has taken off. There’s been a tendency in the last few years to bring death out from among the list of forbidden topics.

“We have become such an isolated nation,” Carroll said. “Death is normal, and for some reason we’ve made it seem like the most abnormal, scary thing. We don’t even talk about it. Like Jon Underwood said, ‘Just like talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about death won’t make you dead.’”

Carroll said society has removed the family from taking an active part in the death process “other than picking out the casket and flowers. In the past we had to prepare and think about it. It helps the healing process to be more hands-on, and it has been proven across the board that it helps to be active in grief.”

With Deathwives, Carroll hopes to teach others to have a better “relationship” with death, to take away the fear. “I have a healthy relationship with death. Knowing I’ll die, and talking about it, has made my life fuller. That’s how everyone single person should live.”

Carroll compared the moment of death to the moment of being born. “We don’t know what happens after death, just as a baby comes into the world having no idea what’s about to happen. We’ve all done it before. We were all born. We opened our eyes to the unknown. I have a feeling what’s next is going to be pretty amazing. If you think about it, no person who has had a near-death experience has ever come back and said that it was awful.”

Complete Article HERE!

Causes of Mortality

Our Perceptions vs. Reality

by Jennifer Thomas and Juli Fraga

Understanding health risks can help us feel empowered.

Death, as the old adage goes, is one of only two certainties in life (the second being taxes).

But when it comes to what actually kills us, are we really correct in our assumptions? As it turns out, no.

Recent data gathered by UCSD students that looks at the biggest causes of mortality shows we might be worrying about the wrong things — partially as a result of what we see covered the most in the media.

This particular data set looks at 10 of the leading causes of death, including three causes of mortality that receive substantial media attention.

The conclusion?

Many of us have false expectations about death. There’s a sizeable discrepancy between how people think we die and how we actually die.

So how does this false vision of death impact us? How far from reality are we? What are the real numbers behind the causes of death — and what do they actually tell us?

The answers and the data may well lead you to a proactive (and preventive) healthcare approach.

Media coverage doesn’t offer a clear indication of what’s actually killing us

The data shows that what the media is covering in terms of what kills us doesn’t always accurately represent the truth. And this can do more harm than good.

When people hear these things, they take them to heart.

The result: Anxiety and fear can spike, resulting in avoidance behaviors that impact a person’s well-being. Even worse, people living with mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder may be triggered by media reports, which can worsen their symptoms.

When inaccurate news becomes widespread, it leads people to believe danger exists where it may not. Like a game of telephone, this false information can get twisted and create a larger problem that doesn’t truly exist.

There’s also the issue of people’s expectations about death that are affected by the media focusing more on the things less likely to kill us.

Why it’s important to understand what truly has the most potential to kill you

Thinking about our own end of life — or death — at all can be uncomfortable. But it can also be extremely beneficial.

Dr. Jessica Zitter, an ICU and palliative care physician explains it this way: “Understanding the typical trajectories that are usually seen as people approach the end of life can be very helpful because if people know what final exit paths tend to look like, they are more likely to be prepared for their own as it approaches.”

Zitter goes on to say: “The media tends to ignore death from disease, while death from suicide, terrorism, and accidents are atypical in reality [based on the statistics] but sensationalized in the media. When death is treated in an unrealistic way, we rob people of the opportunity to attend to disease and make plans for the death that they would want to have.”

“You cannot have a good death if you don’t believe you are going to die. When the media misdirects our attention from death by disease to death from sensationalized causes, it implies that death can be avoided if these extreme circumstances can be avoided,” she says.

You can learn more about Dr. Zitter’s work in her book, Extreme Measures.

So what does that data say?

While heart disease and cancer together make up more than halfTrusted Source of all causes of death in the United States, these two health conditions are less than a quarter of what’s covered by the media.

So while these two conditions make up a large portion of what kills us, it’s not necessarily being covered in the news.

On the other side of the spectrum, terrorism accounts for less than 0.1 percent of deaths, despite the fact that it makes up 31 percent of news coverage. In fact, it’s overrepresented by a whopping 3,900 times.

Meanwhile, though terrorism, cancer, and homicides are the causes of death that are most mentioned in newspapers, only one is actually in the top three causes of mortality.

Furthermore, homicide is more than 30 times overrepresented in the media, but only accounts for 1 percent of total deaths.

Our concerns drastically differ from the facts

As it turns out, the causes we worry about killing us — demonstrated by what we Google the most — aren’t often in line with what actually ails Americans.

What’s more, Googling symptoms or potential things that can kill us without also discussing these things with a doctor can cause anxiety to arise. This can, in turn, set off a stream of unwarranted ‘what if’s’ such as “What if such and such happens?” “What if I’m not prepared?” or “What if I die and leave my family behind?”

And these unsettling thoughts can catapult your nervous system into overdrive, igniting the body’s stress response, also known as “fight or flight.” When the body enters this state, the heart beats faster, breathing becomes more shallow, and the stomach churns.

Not only is this physically uncomfortable, but it can also impact your physical health by raising blood pressure, heart rate, and lowering immune system functioning.

Now, back to the data…

It would seem that while we should be focusing on heart disease — which is responsible for 31 percent of deaths — it’s only 3 percent of what people search for on Google.

Conversely, searches for cancer are disproportionate to the actual likelihood of getting the disease. While cancer does make up a large portion of deaths — 28 percent — it accounts for 38 percent of what’s searched on Google.

Diabetes, too, shows up in Google results (10 percent) far more than it causes death (3 percent of total deaths).

Meanwhile, suicide has several times more relative share in the public’s eyes compared to the actual death rate. While only 2 percent of deaths in the United States are by suicide, it makes up 10 percent of what the media focuses on and 12 percent of what people search for on Google.

But there’s good news — we’re not always off the mark

Despite the obvious disparities about what causes mortality versus reported causes of death, some of our perceptions actually are correct.

Stroke, for example, makes up 5 percent of deaths and is in about 6 percent of news coverage and Google searches. Pneumonia and influenza, too, are consistent across all three charts, accounting for 3 percent of deaths and 4 percent of both media focus and Google searches.

While it might not seem like a big deal to have a firm grasp on the realities of what causes us to die, there are definite psychological and physical benefits that come out of this awareness.

Understanding health risks and safety concerns can help us better prepare for unforeseen outcomes, which can feel empowering — like taking preventive measures for heart disease.

When you know about risk factors, you can also seek comfort from healthcare professionals who can answer questions and offer reassurance. For example, someone worried about cancer may receive additional health screens from their physician, which can help them take charge of their well-being.

So next time you find yourself worrying about a news report you’ve just read or a disease you only just learned about but are Googling at 3 in the morning, take a step back and consider whether you really need to be worrying.

A better understanding of death allows us to embrace a better understanding of our life and health, so we can own it — every step of the way.

Complete Article HERE!

Yes, Grief Can Make You Horny

Craving sex is an awkward but deeply human response to one of life’s worst moments.

by Hannah Smothers

Death is, in general, a bummer, and there’s nothing really “sexy” about it. Yet some percentage of people find themselves improbably motivated to fuck as they mourn the loss of a loved one. It turns out that grief, the emotion that should be the least horny, is actually…quite horny.

This is kind of an uncomfortable premise, which could perhaps explain the (very disappointing!!!) lack of substantial, peer-reviewed research on this topic. (One of the only studies in the horny grief vein focuses on “sexual bereavement,” and basically just establishes that people who lose their long-term sexual partners will miss the feeling of sex, and not just the person they shared it with.) Therapists and sex researchers, though, say it’s a normal and fine thing to feel inexplicably horned up after someone close dies. “It’s really about filling the void — literally and figuratively,” Patti Britton, a clinical sexologist and sexuality educator, told Mel Magazine in 2018. “The grief trajectory is about a loss of closeness — a loss of intimacy. That’s why our libido kicks in: To fill that void.”

This makes sense. Living through the death of a loved one can put people in a very YOLO state of mind; faced with the fleetingness of life, you may as well bone while you can. It’s like humping away as the world burns around you (which is…kinda what we are already doing right now). Life will end, and so perhaps the way to feel most alive (at least for some people) is to smoosh your parts against another warm-blooded person.

But beyond filling a void, grief sex is also a pretty solid distraction from the pain and/or numbness that death brings. “The body becomes quite broken [after a death], and having sex— decent sex—drives the dopamine system,” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, told VICE. “Any stimulation of the genitals drives the dopamine system in the brain, which gives feelings of optimism, energy, focus, and motivation.” The flood of dopamine can, at least for a little while, calm you down, Fisher explained.

Writer Anjali Pinto echoes this theory in an April 2018 essay she wrote in the Washington Post. Writing about the string of sexual encounters she started five months after the sudden death of her husband, Pinto describes a “rush of feel-good chemicals [that] created an overwhelming sense of happiness, even amid my loneliness.”

But more than the biological thrill of the dopamine hit that comes from good, consensual sex, Pinto wrote that seeking out casual flings with strangers gave her a sense of control in an otherwise bleak time. “Having sex with strangers healed me in ways that therapy, friendship, travel, writing and photography could not,” she writes. “These encounters made me feel empowered, desirable and more in tune with my body. They gave me agency when my life felt out of my control.”

Of course some people in “””polite society””” are going to poo-poo the banging of strangers (or banging anyone, TBH) in the aftermath of a major traumatic event, Pinto noted. Sex, especially when a woman is doing it, is still just taboo enough to feel like a manic response to a bad thing. But, I don’t know, man… losing a spouse is like a top-five bad thing that can happen to a person. Losing any loved one is. Barring legitimately destructive or dangerous behavior, it sort of seems like someone going through that hell of an experience should be able to do whatever it takes to feel better. As the saying goes, ‘Everyone grieves differently.” And experts say that some people grieve by boinking. That seems, in the grand scheme of things, very fine.

Complete Article HERE!