07/3/17

Deconstructing Death as a Dying Woman

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by Mackenzie E. Rockcastle

Next week, I have my second scan since being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

 
The thought of the little white masses glowing brightly on my doctor’s computer monitor leaves my stomach unsettled—leaves my mind unsettled.

As my “scanxiety” builds, I find myself leaning on my own advice to approach my fears of dying. A few weeks ago, I gave my therapist a breakdown of what I thought were my general fears surrounding death. She was surprisingly thankful for my analysis of such an enormous concept and fear that is shared by so many. She told me many of her patients held an irrational fear of dying. Breaking death down into the smaller fears that truly comprise the overall terror for the word makes it a little less intimidating.

She believed this mindset could help some of her other patients get to the root of their obsessions. So I thought to myself, perhaps my breakdown of death—one that has helped me unveil my true fears, befriend my own death, and enhance my life—could help others do the same.

To start the process of grasping my fears surrounding death, I first had to ask: Is it possible to create a good relationship with death? And in order to create a good relationship with it, well, perhaps we need to understand why we have such a bad relationship with it.

I personally see four major reasons to feel uncomfortable about death. All of them associate with fear. Fear of the dying itself, fear of what lays beyond death, fear of the life we will never live, and fear for those we leave behind.

At this point, I believe I’ve come to peace with three out of the four. But I had to ask (and continuously have to ask) myself the following questions:

1. What is dying?

Dying is a physical action. It is momentary. Physical pain may be associated, but it is temporary, not eternal. Dying is generally defined as “to stop living.” This definition causes death to be associated with the opposite of life. I don’t like this association, and I don’t believe it properly does justice to the word death.

As a young child in school, I specifically remember doing worksheets to understand opposites: on/off, black/white, night/day, life/death. Looking at a lot of ancient cultures, many have a book of the dead: The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Celtic Book of the Dead, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and so on. The way that most of them describe death is not as the opposite of life, but the opposite of birth. I think this shift in language—this shift in the juxtaposition of life and death—is important.

It is an entirely different concept. It suggests that we walk into a room and we walk out of a room, not that the room disappears.

2. What comes after death?

Since this is the most uncertain part of the equation, this question can bring about the most fear. Do we fear an almighty man in the sky? Burning for all eternity? That, maybe, this is it? Religion, upbringing, what we’ve experienced, what we’ve watched, and what we’ve read all play into what we believe happens after death. But the reality is, no one knows for certain. Beliefs, faith, and religion aside, really no one can say without a shadow of a doubt what happens when we die.

In this thought, some people hold fear, and some people hold peace.

For me, this is the most fun part. As a nonreligious, but spiritual person, this is a playground of opportunity. I personally don’t hold a fear for this. Rather, I see the space beyond death as a a beautiful existence where our beings no longer hold their human form. I acknowledge my brain doesn’t have the capacity to understand this fully, and therefore I don’t try too hard to create an image or definition to coincide, rather just a feeling. This is the part of death I feel to be the most reassuring, warm, and whole. It’s the presence that gives full peace.

3. Are we afraid of the things you will miss out on, the things we never did, or the things we’ll never do?

This fear is actually comprised of regret. These are the things in life we always thought we’d achieve or have the time for. The places we wanted to go. The people we wanted to meet. The food we wanted to eat. The adventures we wanted to take. This is bucket-list stuff, and is constantly shifting. It’s understandable to want more time to do more things, but, in fact, more incentive to live fully while we know we are here. Carpe f*ckin’ Diem, right?

The longer we live, we assume, the more likely we are to achieve our dreams and desires. And sometimes this is true. At 21, my initial diagnosis left me thinking I’d never graduate from college. A year later, I graduated with my class. At 23, just two weeks after finding out my cancer had returned, I stood next to my beautiful sister-in-law as she married my brother. I cried a good amount, most tears were of joy, but some of the salty droplets fell from the thought that I may never live long enough to get married. A year passed, and I did.

I realize some of those things can’t always be attained. I have certainly shed a tear or two over the thought of the empty bedrooms in my home that echo with the cries of babies who are not mine, and are not there. While the thought is sad, it too passes. My perspective goes beyond that. I have a lot of dreams. But if I don’t attain them, I am at peace with that. And I think part of that acceptance is the realization that it isn’t those big “achievements” that were my favorite parts of life thus far.

It’s the nitty gritty. The naughty. The unexpected. The unconventional things that are mine. And if that’s what we enjoy about life—the little things and the uniqueness of the bonds we’ve made—then maybe we can take away the bigness of death. Maybe if we break it down into the little things about it we can start to get on the same level as it. Maybe we can start to repair this broken relationship with death.

4. Do we hold a fear for those we’ll leave behind?

Currently, this is my greatest fear associated with my own death. I fear for the pain inflicted on those who will heavily feel my void. I am trying to remedy this by reminding them that my purpose here may be just that: a reminder. A reminder and an inspiration. And whatever is happening, it’s supposed to. It’s fluid and it will make sense. If I were to die soon, I know the little things people will see and think of me for.

Little jokes that will make them laugh. Spaces, patterns, and songs that will make them smile. And that is what makes us immortal: our essence. I believe that’s what we become when we die. And if I can inspire people to pursue the things that make them smile, laugh, and feel joy—feel love—that is a gift greater than I can take credit for. It gives me peace to know I will, in some way, be with them.

But, I can stare into my mothers eyes and tell her how at peace I am over a bottle of wine at lunch. And I am. But when I swivel around that table and look through her eyes, what do I see? My baby girl dying? F*ck, I can’t imagine. Nor, probably will I ever have to (which adds into the f*cked-up-ness of the thought).

I can physically feel the heaviness of my husband’s sadness as he lays his body on top of mine just to make sure I’m still there. I can run alongside my best friend and no empathy is needed, because the thought of losing her is the exact same weight as her thought of losing me. I can talk bucket-lists with my dad, who is battling Stage 3 cancer, with stipulation on both ends on how things are doing in a few months—a most unusual fate not typically shared between a father and daughter simultaneously. I can go out with my brothers or my friends and share meals, drinks, and laughs.

A big part of the problem is we continue to view death as an end—that we’ll never be able to share those same meals, drinks, and laughs again. But we wouldn’t anyways. That’s how time works. Part of making peace with death is making peace with time. Perhaps it’s the most perfect preserver of time—the relationship we had is exactly the relationship it will always be. We will always have shared that meal. We will always have shared that drink. We will always have shared that laugh. Allowing the fleeting to fleet. And letting life slip into death, in the beautiful, exact way it’s supposed to.

But, still, this is where I find sadness: in the sadness of others. I don’t like being the source of peoples’ pain. It’s the part that hurts the most. So no, this piece I am not yet at peace with. But it is a shared burden. And I believe the more at peace those I love become, the more at peace I’ll become. Which is the point of this whole thought: How do we better our relationship with death?!

I suppose a more complicated question then becomes: How do we better our relationship not only with our own death, but with the death of others? And I’m starting to think this is a full circle concept. If we better our relationship with our own death, we better our relationship with the death of others.

I think the first step is talking about it. Often the conversation is met with: “I can’t bare the thought.” But what if we did? What if we did just f*cking bear the thought? What would we do differently? How would we treat each other differently? How would we live differently? Can being friends with death make us have a better life?

I whole-heartedly believe the answer is yes.

I think as we visit and revisit each of these four major parts of death, we continue to delve deeper and deeper into a peace with it. A peace with our own death, a peace with the death of others, and a life more fully lived.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/30/17

I’m terrified of dying — and, apparently, so are you

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Every Sunday Mindy Gillenwater volunteers for hospice care at the Robison Residence. Over the course of four years she as served as a companion to many patients like Kevin Sweat.

by Richard C. Gross

When I once conveyed concern to my father about his eventual death, his matter-of-fact response was, “We all die.”

And he did. At 89, of complications of pneumonia. Some say it was the best way to greet the hereafter: He went to sleep, into a coma, helped by doctor-administered doses of morphine. Yet when the ambulance initially came for him at the assisted living facility, his light brown eyes widened with fear.

I’m deathly afraid of dying. The idea of no more Richard weighs on me the older I get, and I’m getting up there. There’s so much more to do, so many more people to meet, so much to see, so much to live for, so much more to know. But there is no cure for aging.


 
I learned my fear of dying is not irrational; I have lots of company.

“Death is still a fearful, frightening happening, and the fear of death is a universal fear even if we think we have mastered it on many levels,” wrote Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her seminal 1969 book, “On Death and Dying.”

Cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1973 book, “The Denial of Death,” writes that “anxiety about death is a constant fact of life for everyone and that it is the underlying cause of the many other fears and phobias people experience.” Fears of being alone or stuck in a confined space, for example, are substitutes for fear of death.

Maybe singer Neil Diamond, now 76, expressed those very fears in the lyrics of his 1971 song about loneliness, “I Am … I Said:”

“But I got an emptiness deep inside/And I’ve tried/But it won’t let me go/And I’m not a man who likes to swear/But I never cared/For the sound of being alone.”

Alone or not, one’s mortality and the inevitability of death becomes more real the older we get, especially as relatives, friends and onetime coworkers — people with whom we’ve spent many years — die, shrinking our world, reminding us with a jolt that one day we will join them. Attending funerals becomes commonplace.

Seeking others for opinions about the fear of death, I attended a 90-minute seminar, called “Santa Fe Doorways,” hosted by Denys Cope, a registered nurse for nearly 50 years, including about 30 of them in hospice care. About 30 elderly people attended, all but three of them women; we sat in a wide circle in a windowless room in a retirement home.

Ms. Cope said, “We are all hard-wired to fear death,” and threw out a question: “When you think about death, what matters to you most?”

“To be able to die resting in God’s mercy,” replied one woman, acknowledging she is Christian.

Deep faith in one’s religion must be potently comforting, providing virtually certain assurance of peace as death approaches, perhaps, as another woman said, because of an abiding belief in an afterlife. Enviable. And for the secular among us?

One white-haired man, who experienced a near-death episode, approached the subject lightheartedly, maybe because he appeared so organized. He said he since has written his own obituary, letters to his loved ones and has paid for his cremation. This is a man who will meet his maker head-on.

Another woman took an amazingly positive approach toward death, reveling in its opposite: life.

“What I love about death is thinking how I’m going to live,” she responded to Ms. Cope’s question.

I’m not as sanguine and stubbornly turned back to Becker’s “Denial of Death” to reinforce my feelings about dying. For me, he hit a bull’s eye:

“This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, and excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression — and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax.”

Ms. Cope has another way of looking at death.

“When first faced with the fact they are dying, many people experience a tremendous amount of fear,” she wrote in her 2008 book, “Dying: A Natural Passage.” “Often, I am told, it is not death but the process of dying that is frightening. … As long as we remain attached to this world and to our life, it is a struggle to die. … When we surrender to the process of dying, there is an incredible inward flow of peace and grace.”

I hope I can surrender.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/11/17

Dying is happier than you think

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Fear of death is a fundamental part of the human experience–we dread the possibility of pain and suffering and we worry that we’ll face the end alone. Although thinking about dying can cause considerable angst, new research suggests that the actual emotional experiences of the dying are both more positive and less negative than people expect.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“When we imagine our emotions as we approach death, we think mostly of sadness and terror,” says psychological scientist Kurt Gray of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But it turns out, dying is less sad and terrifying–and happier–than you think.”

The research, which examined the writings of terminally ill patients and inmates on death row, suggests that we focus disproportionately on the negative emotions caused by dying, without considering the broader context of everyday life.

“Humans are incredibly adaptive – both physically and emotionally–and we go about our daily lives whether we’re dying or not,” Gray explains. “In our imagination, dying is lonely and meaningless, but the final blog posts of terminally ill patients and the last words of death row inmates are filled with love, social connection, and meaning.”

The positive emotions that come with this kind of meaning-making were exquisitely displayed in a recent Modern Love column, written by beloved children’s author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Rosenthal, who died of ovarian cancer 10 days after her column was published in The New York Times, wrote with profound love and humor about finding someone to marry her husband after she died.

“The column was so touching because it was so positive, so filled with love and hope,” says Gray. “While such positivity seems strange in someone so near death, our work shows that it is actually fairly typical.”

Gray, his graduate student Amelia Goranson, and their co-authors Ryan Ritter, Adam Waytz, and Michael Norton started thinking about the emotional experience of dying when they came across the last words of death-row inmates in Texas, collected by the state’s Department of Justice. They were surprised by how upbeat the statements were, and wondered whether our feelings about death and dying might be clouded by our tendency to zero in on negative experiences.

In their first study, Gray and colleagues analyzed the emotional content of blog posts from terminally ill patients who were dying of either cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To be included in the study, the blogs had to have at least 10 posts over at least 3 months and the author had to have died in the course of writing the blog. For comparison, the researchers asked a group of online participants to imagine that they had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and to write a blog post, keeping in mind that they had only a few months to live.

Using a computer-based algorithm, trained research assistant coders, and online participant coders, the researchers analyzed the actual and imagined blog posts for words that described negative and positive emotions, such as “fear,” “terror,” “anxiety,” “happiness,” and “love.”

The results revealed that blog posts from individuals who were terminally ill included considerably more positive emotion words and fewer negative emotion words than did those written by participants who simply imagined they were dying.

Looking at the patients’ blog posts over time, the researchers also found that their use of positive emotion words actually increased as they neared death, while their use of negative emotion words did not. These patterns held even after Gray and colleagues took the overall word count and number of blog posts into account, suggesting that the increase in positive emotion words was not simply due to the effects of writing over time.

In a second study, the researchers conducted similar analyses comparing the last words of inmates on death row with the poetry of death-row inmates and the imagined last words of another group of online participants.

Again, they found that the words of those who were actually close to death were less negative and more positive in emotional tone than the words of those who were not close to death.

Both the terminally ill patients and the inmates facing execution seemed to focus on things that help us make meaning of life, including religion and family, suggesting that such things may help to quell anxiety about death as it approaches.

Gray and his co-authors acknowledge that the findings may not apply to all people who are approaching death – it’s unclear whether individuals facing a great deal of uncertainty or those who die of old age express similarly positive emotions near the end of life.

Ultimately, the findings suggest that our expectations may not match the reality of dying, which has important implications for how we treat people who are dying.

“Currently, the medical system is geared toward avoiding death–an avoidance that is often motivated by views of death as terrible and tragic,” the researchers write in their paper. “This focus is understandable given cultural narratives of death’s negativity, but our results suggest that death is more positive than people expect: Meeting the grim reaper may not be as grim as it seems.”

Complete Article HERE!

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06/2/17

How clergy can help believers die a ‘good death’

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U.S. clergy may be increasing the sting of death for many members of their flocks.

By David Briggs

Two new studies find that many clergy are both ill-prepared and reluctant to fully engage in end-of-life conversations with terminally ill congregation members and their families.

The result, both studies suggest, is that more believers may be spending their final days enduring painful treatments with little chance of success in intensive care units rather than receiving comfort care at home.

One of the studies was a national survey of more than 1,000 clergy. The other involved in-depth interviews with 35 ministers from five states. The research raises three critical areas of concern:

· Too much faith in miracles: More than three in 10 clergy in the national survey said they would strongly agree with a congregant who said, “I believe God will cure me of this cancer.” Eighteen percent affirmed the belief that every medical treatment should be accepted “because my faith says to do everything I can to stay alive.”

· Lack of knowledge: In the in-depth study, spiritual leaders showed little knowledge of end-of-life care, including the benefits of palliative care and potential harms associated with invasive interventions. “Many grossly overestimated the benefits of aggressive medical procedures at the end of life,” researchers reported in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Three-quarters said they would like more training in end-of-life issues.

· Fear of overstepping boundaries: The default position of many clergy, even those who personally believed it was against God’s will to suffer unnecessarily, was to merely support the decisions of dying congregants and their family members.

But even such passivity has consequences, researchers said, in that it can enable congregants to seek potentially nonbeneficial treatments that are associated with increased suffering.

The larger problem was summarized by one study participant: “We have not done a good job…on preparing people to die–that they don’t need to live the last days of their lives under terrible and excruciating pain.”

Competing principles

The new studies are part of The National Clergy Project on End-of-Life Care,

What is clear in both studies is the complexity in end-of-life decision making.

Spiritual principles such as the sacredness of life and the capacity for divine healing may come into conflict with other religious principles to comfort the suffering and place faith that God will care for individuals after this life.

For example, clergy were asked in the national study what they would talk about when visiting a patient with cancer and no hope for a cure.

Fifty-six percent said it is important to encourage acceptance of dying as part of God’s plan. Two-thirds would place a priority on suggesting hospice as a good idea. Eighty percent said it is important to talk about heaven and life after death.

Yet, 60 percent also would strongly encourage prayer for physical healing, holding out hope for a miracle.

At one extreme, 18 percent of clergy endorsed the idea of accepting every medical treatment to prolong life, and 16 percent said doctors and nurses should do everything possible to extend the life of a patient.

The clergy most likely to place their faith in divine healing were from the black church, Pentecostal and evangelical traditions and those serving low-income congregations, researchers noted in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

The attitudes mattered to their flocks.

Clergy that endorsed life-prolonging religious values were approximately half as likely as other clergy to have a discussion concerning entering hospice, stopping treatment or forgoing treatment. The absence of a clergy-congregant hospice discussion was associated with less hospice and more ICU care.

In the in-depth interviews, no clergyperson said aggressive care was an “absolute good.” Several said it hampered a good death, and one said it was an “absolute bad,” researchers reported.

Yet despite their own strong views, many clergy refrained from influencing decisions about end-of-life care.

The ministers said they did not offer guidance out of respect for the “free will” of congregants, but researchers indicated a lack of knowledge of the medical consequences also played a role.

Humble approach

What can be done to assist clergy in helping religious individuals make better informed decisions about end-of-life care?

Clergy education is critical, researchers from both studies said.

The studies concluded that clergy training focused on the intersection of religious values and medical issues at the end of life offer several opportunities for improving care, including:

· Closing the gap between the clergy’s beliefs and actions.

· Empowering clergy to counsel congregants about the moral and spiritual implications of end-of-life medical decisions.

· Supporting religiously informed decision making by patients that minimizes unnecessary physical and spiritual suffering.

· Creating partnerships of ministers and disease-based and palliative care clinicians.

What clergy say – and what they do not say – can make a major difference in whether believers experience a “good death,” the studies find.

“There are times,” one black minister from Chicago told researchers, “Death itself is a cure to what ails you. It’s the healing.’’

Complete Article HERE!

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05/20/17

Pathologist Carla Valentine Will Teach You How to Die Fearlessly

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“The people who think about mortality tend to have the highest happiness rate.”

By Sarah Sloat

Ambitious technocrats may predict a deathless future, but as the world stands now, we’re all going to die. This leaves us humans with the same two options we’ve had since we emerged from the evolutionary mire: Fear the final shuffling of our mortal coils, or embrace the inevitability that we’ll all be one with the dirt.

Fortunately, there are people out there who can help ease your mind about the whole “one day you’ll be dead” thing. One of those people is Carla Valentine, whose job as an anatomical pathologist, technical curator at Barts Pathology Museum, and author of The Chick and the Dead, has more than prepared her to come face to face with the inevitable end. In her book, which will be released in the United States in June, she weaves together corpse science and her intimate involvement with the “death industry” with the vital lesson about dying she’s learned over the years: Everyone wants to learn more about death whether they admit it to themselves or not, and accepting that education is the best preparation for their final days.

Valentine, whose book will be released in the United States in June, recently spoke to Inverse about the CSI effect, the future of “soul midwives,” and urban legends that just won’t go to the grave.

Carla Valentine.

>Why was now the right time to write this book?
There are two reasons, really. There is definitely more of a desire at the moment for people to speak about death and learn more about it. That’s been on an upward trajectory. That just happened to coincide with when I left my career as a full-time pathology technician and I began to work at the museum, which gave me more free time to actually start to write.

What do you think has driven that increased interest in talking about death and learning about it?
When I first studied forensic science, which was 15 years ago, there were barely any courses. Those courses began to increase with what we call the “CSI effect”. That’s an actual academic term now for the interest in death and autopsies that has emerged from the increase in books and TV shows on the topic.

I think another issue is just the cost of funerals, like many things, is rising. People want to be a bit more informed and demystify the process around death so that they can plan properly and just dispel a lot of the myths before the time comes. There have always been a lot of myths around autopsies and how we conduct them. I think people just want to know the truth and it’s a good time for it.

What do you think people gain when from learning about what happens to their body after they die?
Personally, I think that when people face this idea of their mortality, the reality of it, and the reality of what may happen to their family members, for example, they tend to live a better life. They tend to understand how quickly it can be taken away. They can appreciate their own mortality and their own health. That was always what I felt and that’s been backed up by psychological studies, as well, which I reference in the book. The people who think about mortality tend to have the highest happiness rate. I think it’s because it demystifies it. People say that you’re afraid of the unknown. Sometimes it’s better to face the reality of it. Then it’s not so scary anymore.

Fracture of a mandible at the Pathology Museum.

Do you get consistently the same sort of questions from people when they learn about your job?
I get consistently the same sort of questions and I get consistently told the same myths. Those absolutely drive me insane. I took as much opportunity as I could to answer all of the questions that I always get asked in the book. A lot of these myths have been doing the rounds since I was a child. For example, I was at the hairdresser’s yesterday, and the girl in the chair next to me overheard that we were talking about my job, and she said, “It’s true, isn’t it, that the fingernails grow and the hair grows after death?” I was like, “No it’s not like that.” I’ve heard the same things for 20 years.

What else do people get wrong about death?
People also think the deceased sit upright because of their gases, which is not true at all. Some deceased people are possibly in a state of rigor mortis, where they’ve passed away in a chair and so that means for a while they’ll still be in a bent-over position. They’ll look slightly like they’re sitting up when they’re on the slab. But they don’t sit up because of the gases. There are the odd groans or burps or farts. That is true.

The most annoying urban legend is the one where someone tells me, “A friend of mine knows someone who got a rash and when she went to the doctors she found out that it can only be caught from a corpse.” Basically insinuating that the guy that she’d had sex with or whatever has had sex with a corpse. That always drives me insane because there’s nothing on a deceased individual that isn’t on a live individual. We have the flora and fauna. There is no such thing as a parasite or a fungus that you can get from the dead.

It just goes to show how fascinated people are by those subjects. I’m doing my MA on the relationship between the sexualized gaze and anatomical displays. When I blog about sex and death and people go, “Really?” I think, look, you’re all interested in sex and death, just look at this one urban legend that’s nearly outlived me. Clearly, people are far more interested in sex and death than they’d like to let on.

A broken cervical spine.

What is it about that intersection that people keep on coming back to?
They’ve had similar periods in time where they’ve been sort of considered taboos. But the simple fact is sex is what begins our lives and death is what ends it. They’re two sides of the same coin. They’ve always been connected to each other psychoanalytically because everything you do, according to Freud, you do with either the death drive, the morbido, or a life drive, which is libido.

Inside Barts Pathology Museum.

Are there any new modern trends you’ve noticed, when it comes to what people want immediately before and after they die?
There are definitely newer trends towards much more environmentally friendly funerals. A lot of people are moving away from the traditional funeral, and opting for a green burial. That means that they wouldn’t be embalmed. Embalming was never as big over in the United Kingdom as it is in the U.S. anyway, but it’s still definitely dwindling. Natural burials where people are placed into wicker, cardboard coffins, or linen and buried into an actual burial ground. There’s definitely an increase in people who want that, while we never really would hear of that request a few years ago.

And then there’s death doulas and end of life doulas. They’re just like midwives, but for death. I met one the other night and he actually called himself a “soul midwife.” Death doulas are usually brought in when the person is in hospice. It can also be as soon as a person discovers that they’re terminally ill. In the same way that a midwife is there for the mother as she’s becoming dilated and then she delivers the baby, the doula helps the person through the process of death. It’s a similar process, I suppose, just the other way around.

Complete Article HERE!

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05/15/17

Why Your Fear Of Dying Alone Means You’re Not Really Living

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By Kendra Syrdal

Everywhere around me even in modern day 2017, it seems like as a single person I’m confronted with the same message

“Here’s how to find the real love of your life!” Some old guy in a tuxedo exclaims at me from an eHarmony commercial.

“You’re totally like Carrie Bradshaw,” my friends say over drinks when I talk about my job and how I’ve gone out on dates with a few different guys this month. “Now you just need your Big.”

We just don’t want to be alone the countless submissions I read every day proclaim in their honest, heartsick words and in their desperate and painfully lonely headlines.

I’m afraid of a lot of things. I hate driving and am always convinced a semi-truck will run me off of the interstate and send me plummeting to my death. I love paddle boarding but have a weird anxiety about going too far out where the water is a certain level of deep because realistically – who knows what’s down there. The idea of my dog dying when I’m not home makes my eyes start watering just typing it out.

I’m afraid of a lot of things, but dying alone isn’t one of them.

One of my best friends told me a story about how her dad always used to tell her that no matter what, she had to like herself because she was the only person who ever really would ALWAYS be there. And that’s the truth. Some people would say that’s cynical and glass-half-empty, but I say it’s simply honest.

Think about it. Even if you do fall in love, madly in love, the kind of love that people write sonnets about and songs about and paint all over a building as a mural – eventually you’re going to die. And even if that person has been there day in and day out, holding your hand and kissing you despite your morning breath, the only person who you’ll have in those final moments is yourself. All you really have, is you.

So you’d better like you.

I think what we’re really not saying when we say we’re afraid of dying alone is that we’re really not afraid of the alone part, we’re afraid of only having ourselves to hold onto. We’re afraid that somehow, we won’t measure up. We won’t be enough. That somehow, we’re an incomplete puzzle without some else’s edge pieces.

When we say we’re afraid of dying alone we’re really saying we’re afraid that we’ll never be happy with just ourselves, and that we need someone else to dictate that level of completeness to our lives.

But you know what? The little secret that no one wants you to figure out – that the man in the suit hopes you never realize, and anyone writing a “Here Is How You Find The Love Of Your Life And Never Eat Alone Again” book hopes you don’t come to terms with?

A fear of dying alone is really just a fear of not living a life you love. A life you’re excited about. A life that makes you feel enough.

And they never want you to know that crushing that fear is simple. All you have to do is refuse to let it in.

So when you’re worried about eating alone, grab a book that swallows you with its characters and its story and go treat yourself to some Alfredo and wine and give it no second thoughts. If you’re scared of your life being empty, make friends with people who never cease to make you smile and challenge you in the ways you need. Fill your days with a job you love, with travels that blow your mind, and create a life that bears no need for another person other than yourself.

That way, if someone comes alone, they’re just and enhancement, not a requirement.

Your fear of dying alone isn’t sign of being an incomplete or unlovable person — it’s simply a sign that you just need to love yourself enough to stop being so afraid.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/9/17

Atheists And Highly Religious People Least Afraid Of Death: Study

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The thought of dying can be terrifying but some people are not afraid to die as much as others. Now, a new study shows how faith and religion may have something to do with a person’s likelihood to fear death.

By Allan Adamson

Atheists, People Who Are Very Religious Less Likely To Fear Death

In a new study, which was published in the journal Religion, Brain and Behaviour, researchers found that people on far ends of the faith spectrum – namely atheists, who do not believe in the existence of a god, and the very religious – are least afraid of death.

For the study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of earlier studies to get a closer look at the relationship that exists between religious belief and death anxiety.

Using about 100 articles published from the years 1961 to 2014 and which contain data involving 26,000 people from different parts of the globe, researchers found that people with higher religiosity levels have lower levels of anxiety toward death.

They also found out that the effect holds regardless of religious belief such as beliefs in afterlife and God, or religious behavior such as praying and attending religious services.

People at the far sides of the faith spectrum are least afraid of dying. Researchers found that atheists and people who are very religious are least scared of death.

The analysis likewise revealed that while people who are intrinsically religious have lower levels of anxiety for death, individuals who are extrinsically religious have higher levels of death anxiety.

Extrinsic religiosity is characterized by religious behavior that is motivated by practical reasons and considerations, which include the emotional or social benefits of being part of a religion. Intrinsic religiosity, on the other hand, is marked by religious behavior that is driven by true belief.

The findings though had mixed results across the studies. About 18 percent of the study showed that religious people tend to be more afraid of death compared with non-religious people and more than half of the studies did not show an association between religiosity and fear of death.

The mixed results hint that the association between death anxiety and religiosity may not be fixed and may differ depending on context. Because the studies were done in different parts of the globe with most of the research done in the United States and a small number conducted in East Asia and the Middle East, it is difficult to identify how the pattern differs from religion to religion or culture to culture.

Religiosity And Death Anxiety

Some researchers think that the relationship between religiosity and death anxiety follows an upside-down U pattern, which suggests that religious believers may have less anxiety toward death than individuals in between the far sides of the religious spectrum. Nearly 10 of the studies involved in the meta-analysis that were sufficiently robust for researchers to test the idea formed this pattern.

“This definitely complicates the old view, that religious people are less afraid of death than non-religious people,” said Jonathan Jong from Coventry University.

Jong said that it is possible that atheism offers comfort for death. It is also possible that those who have no fear of dying do not feel the need to seek religion.

Complete Article HERE!

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