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Published by juliagering, 2019-05-23 21:45:16

goingahead thesis FINAL

goingahead thesis FINAL


navigating the topic of death and dying


When we avoid difficult conversations, we
trade short term discomfort for long term dys-
function. Conversations around death aren’t
easy, but we can benefit from them occurring.






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@DeathDoula, Instagram

what is death positivity?

Death positivity is a growing movement
that advocates for more open engagement
with death. Death positivity holds a slightly
different meaning for everyone, yet it’s an all
encompassing term for adopting a more open
attitude toward death practices and culture.

Being death positive means being open to the
subject of death. Death in western culture is
considered taboo to discuss, yet change and
progress cannot happen without discussion.

Being death positive doesn’t mean you can’t
be scared of death.

A large part of death positivity is accepting
that everyone is at a different place in their
relationship with death. Some people are
more comfortable whereas others have more
of an aversion to the topic.




Laura Prince, Funeral Counselor

how do we navigate
thoughts around death?

It’s hard to approach thoughts around death
without a place to start. Death may be inevi-
table but it is not intuitive.

Learning how to prepare practically and finan-
cially is as important as knowing how to care
for the emotionally difficult parts of death.

Knowing what’s possible is a tremendous
help in thinking about what you’d want. Confi-
dence develops in understanding the options
for body disposition and ritual and makes
conversation seem more approachable.

Thinking about your preferred method of body
disposition, how you want to be remembered,
or who would speak for you as your next of
kin takes plenty of time and thought and
there’s no harm in considering these things.

If you can’t think of what you want, it can be
helpful to ask yourself what you don’t want.


National Funeral Directors Association
Alua Arthur, Death Doula

Jamie Buttons, Fellow Human

Your “next of kin” is the person who
would make decisions for you if you
were unable to do so for yourself.

An “advance directive” is a legal
form where you can list your next
of kin and preferences for body
donation and disposition. This
form will legally grant rights to your
chosen next of kin as well as honor
your choices of body disposition.
Advance directive forms for your
state are available online for free.
It’s an important document to be
aware of and tweak throughout life
if preferences change.

A will focuses more on property
and is often set up with the help
of lawyer. However, a lawyer is not
necessary. As long as you create
an official document that is signed
by three disinterested witnesses, it
is considered legal. A disinterested
witness can be anyone who is not
named a beneficiary in the will.


Jamie Buttons, Fellow Human

how do we navigate
conversations around death?

Whether you’re helping a grieving friend or
trying to start a conversation about death
with a loved one, it’s hard to know what to
say. Often, when we don’t know what to say it
feels safer to say nothing at all.

Learning to talk and think about death in
a healthier way takes practice. Similar to
anything else, some people will find it more
or less difficult to address than others.

As mentioned before, death is not this intui-
tive thing we know how to deal with; we need
help. We need practice in knowing what we
can say and do to help ourselves and others.


Funeral Consumers Alliance

Alua Arthur, Death Doula
Deanna Jones, Fellow Human

Sometimes the topic of death pops
up in conversation organically. Using
this as a segway, you could begin a
conversation about death that doesn’t
seem to come out of nowhere.

Using a fun fact or statistic can peak
interest and get people asking ques-
tions. Facts or statistics can work as
a way to lead into a more personal
conversation with loved ones.

Expressing your feelings to the ones
you love can help them understand
why you want to talk about death or
dying in the first place. Asking for a
conversation that will provide comfort
often appeals to our loved ones who
want to ease our anxieties.



you have options

30 34

Conventional burial is sim- Natural or green burial does
ply a term for the presently not use embalming fluid
traditional way of burying a or non-biodegradable ma-
body. Typically, this includes terials. The body is buried
embalming, a hearse, visita- four feet below the earth’s
tion, a ceremony, and often surface without a concrete
limousine transport. vault surrounding the cas-
ket or shrouded body.

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Funeral homes are extreme- In all but nine states, home
ly helpful when handling a funerals can legally be con-
death, with both the cere- ducted without assistance
mony and the paperwork, of a funeral director. These
or logistics. In fact, funeral states are Connecticut,
homes must legally give Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Loui-
you a price list if asked, in siana, Michigan, Nebraska,
person or over the phone. New Jersey, and New York.



you have options

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Embalming has gained a Cremation is a popu-
reputation of making the lar and comparatively
body safer when in fact it inexpensive alternative
simply preserves the body, to burial. The law does
which is not unsafe to begin not require the use of a
with unless infected with casket for cremation.
contagious diseases, simi-
lar to a live body.

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Body and organ donation Some options are less
saves lives in many ways. popular but still complete-
One person can donate up ly possible. In fact, with
to eight life-saving organs. the proper approval and
But, only 3 in 1,000 die in permits one could be bur-
a way that allows for organ ied on their own property.
donation, so it’s vital to Alternative options have
make sure you’re registered. range quite a bit.


National Funeral Directors Association

Funeral homes are extremely helpful when han-
dling a death, with both the ceremony and the
paperwork, or logistics.
In fact, funeral homes must legally give you a
price list if asked, in person or over the phone.
This means specifying what is required and what
is optional.

There is a basic service fee that cannot be
refused but there are many services that are op-
tional. This fee covers funeral planning, getting
necessary permits and the death certificate,
preparing the death notice or obituary, holding
the remains, and coordinating arrangements
with the cemetery, crematory or others.

You are not required to purchase anything you
don’t want such as embalming, funeral service,
a hearse, or other add-ons. While funeral homes
have rights, you do as well.


National Funeral Directors Association

Conventional burial is simply a term for the
presently traditional way of burying a body.
Typically, this includes embalming, a hearse,
visitation, a ceremony at a church or funeral
home, and often limousine transport.

The price point for conventional burial is
typically quite high with the average ceremony
price being $5000-$7000 dollars and an
additional $2000-$3000 for cemetery burial.
A significant part of the price consists of add-
ons which are not required, but suggested.

Certain purchases may not be legally required
but a matter of specific policy. For example,
while state and federal laws do not require
the use of an outside container for buri-
al, many cemeteries require a vault, or a
concrete grave liner, for casket burial. This is
to prevent the ground from sinking in order
to make landscaping maintenance easier,
though it’s often falsely advertised as being a
protective seal for the casket housed inside.

While conventional burial will always be one
of the pricier options, funeral providers must
disclose their prices and explain what is able
to be opted out of. You should not be forced
or pressured to pay for add ons that are not
necessary by law or policy.


National Funeral Directors Association

In all but nine states, home funerals can le-
gally be conducted without the assistance of
a funeral director. These states are Connecti-
cut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michi-
gan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York.

Laws regarding specific refrigeration and
embalming requirements of the body also
vary from state to state. In place of these
methods, dry ice or ice packs may be used for
preserving the body during a home funeral.

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. While the six states men-
tioned must involve a funeral director and
abide by state specific regulations, a home
funeral is still able to be an option.

Home funerals potential to be much less
expensive than using a funeral home, but are
much more hands on. Home funerals require
more preliminary planning and discussion, as
well, but can be extremely rewarding.


National Funeral Directors Association

Natural or green burial does not use embalm-
ing fluid or non-biodegradable materials. The
body is buried four feet below the earth’s
surface without a concrete vault surrounding
the casket or shrouded body.

This method is commonplace for Jewish and
Muslim burial, but has spiked in popularity
more recently as interest in ecologically
friendly burial methods have grown.

In early America, all burials were green burials
until the introduction of embalming fluids and
non-biodegradable materials.

A green burial cemetery does not use com-
mercial headstones to make the placement of
burial but instead use rocks, plants, trees, or
other naturally occurring material.

With only 93 natural burial cemeteries avail-
able within the U.S., this option is less avail-
able than conventional cemeteries. However,
as interest increases, more cemeteries are
beginning to incorporate green burial.

Natural burials require more planning and
involvement than conventional burial but
average at about only $2000­‑$3000 dollars.


National Funeral Directors Association

Cremation is a popular and comparatively
inexpensive alternative to burial. The law does
not require the use of a casket for cremation.
You may even ask for a less expensive alter-
native container or build your own according
to the requirements of the crematory.

The law does not require the purchase of an
urn from the funeral home, either. You may
bring your own or use the plain container in
which the ashes are returned in to keep them
in permanently or rehouse later.

Direct cremation costs $1,100 on average,
which does not include embalming or a funer-
al service, reducing the price considerably.

This doesn’t mean cremation can’t be
ceremonial. One man was cremated wearing
a Darth Vader helmet. One family put a box
of pasta and a bag of coffee in with their
father’s body. You can even ask the crematory
operator if you can press the button to start
the machine. Don’t be afraid to ask.


National Funeral Directors Association

Embalming has gained a reputation of
making the body safer when in fact it simply
preserves the body, which is not unsafe to
begin with unless infected with contagious
diseases, similar to a live body.

The funeral director must inform you that em-
balming is not legally necessary unless there
is a specified circumstance requiring it.

While it is often not legally required, embalm-
ing can be extremely restorative in cases of
traumatic change upon death. Embalming can
also preserve a body that may be in refrigera-
tion for a period of time before viewing.


National Funeral Directors Association

Body and organ donation saves lives in many
ways. One person can donate up to eight
life-saving organs. But, only 3 in 1,000 die in
a way that allows for organ donation, so it’s
vital to make sure you’re registered.

You may directly be giving someone a pair of
lungs if you’re an organ donor. You may be
studied at a medical school, helping to teach
future physicians or medical professionals.
Either way, your body is a valuable resource in
sustaining and studying human life.

Whole body donation takes planning and
cooperation with a reputable institute but is
extremely valued and respected. In some cas-
es, families are returned ashes of their loved
ones after the use of their body.


Kaylee Johnson, Fellow Human

Some options are less popular but still
completely possible. In fact, with the proper
approval and permits one could be buried on
their own property. Alternative options have a
quite range in what can be done.

There are beautiful pieces of mourning jewelry
made with ashes or a lock of hair. Some like
to carry their loved ones around with them.

A more ecofriendly form of cremation called
alkaline hydrolysis, or water cremation, is
becoming popular, though it’s only available in
Oregon, Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, Kansas,
Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Georgia, Wyoming,
Idaho, Nevada, California, and Utah.

You could be exhibited in the Body Worlds
show of plastinated bodies.

Your ashes could be put in a glaze on pottery.

With a company called Eternal Reefs, your
ashes could be infused into a cement struc-
ture reef-like structure to house ocean life.




how funeral rituals and body disposition
methods have evolved in America



Susan Delaney, Clinical Psychologist

It’s important to avoid setting time-lines for
grief. In fact, the stages aren’t truly represen-
tative of how grief functions. Grief doesn’t
heal like a sickness, such as the flu.

Unlike a cold or flu, we grow around grief. The
top set of boxes show the progression of the
flu. It slowly shrinks as we stay the same. The
second set of boxes show the progression of
grief. It doesn’t shrink, but we grow around it.

However, grief varies with loss. Sometimes
grief is more difficult to grow around for cer-
tain people. Complicated grief, which affects
10-15% of people, is a type of bereavement
that creates an inability to experience im-
provement when grieving. As the third set of
boxes show, grief can freeze.


Rochelle Martin, Nation Home Funeral Alliance Member

We carry out rituals throughout our whole
lives and that does not change in death. Ritu-
als soothe and heal us in both aspects.

Typically, humans are comforted more by sym-
bols of immortality rather than the science
behind death. Symbolic gestures help us feel
a connect to the deceased.

For example, many found comfort in adding
personal objects to the casket of a loved
one. A woman mourning her husband added
chocolate, pasta, and coffee to her husband
casket. Others like to keep the phone of a
loved one. Phones hold a lot of our personal
information and can act as a digital monu-
ment of the deceased.

We should choose in death what we value in
life. With those same values, we can create
rituals for as long as we need to.



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