The Death Taboo is holding us back.
And its time to break free.
Why do we avoid the reality of death?
Why are we so afraid of the Grim Reaper? Why is he even called the Grim Reaper anyway?
Perhaps our greatest fear is of a dream unfulfilled, a life un-lived.
Lets do a thought experiment together. If right now you knew, you absolutely knew, that you had squeezed the juice out of every moment of life, that you had loved with all of your heart, that you had courageously pursued your deepest dreams, then would dying tomorrow feel like such an outrage? Or would it perhaps feel more like a fitting finale to a life well lived?
Unfortunately, the Death Taboo means we avoid talking about, reflecting on, or being near death. As a result, we spend too many hours of too many days with our heads in the sand.
So, we think it’s time to break free from the Death Taboo.
This week the team here at Bounce Works have been busy researching the Death Taboo for you, as we believe it’s super helpful to understand where this fear comes from, the effect it has on us, and how we might overcome it.
Last week we introduced the theme, and we asked our community for their thoughts on the Death Taboo. Below are some of the best things we learned.
- As we live longer lives, talking about death becomes even more difficult. The average lifespan in Victorian England was 41 (its doubled in 100 years). And yes, they were really good talking about death - not so good on sex. They even had Death Nightclubs with bars made from coffins.
- More than half of Britons in relationships are unaware of their partners’ end-of-life wishes. This makes things very tricky when the end of life comes unexpectedly. Have you thought about your end of life wishes. Here is a little quiz to help you reflect.
- Despite the taboo, we are compelled towards death anyway - in the news, on our Playstation games, on Netflix. Enter the controversial smash hit 13 Reasons Why, about a teenage girl who commits suicide. The show has been widely condemned for glamorising suicide. But aren’t we better talking about these things? We enjoyed this article: “We live in a day and age when it is still breaking news when Prince Harry “reveals” that he sought therapy after the sudden and tragic death of his mother.”
- Small talk is a poor substitute for deep talk. So next time you find yourself in another superficial conversation about the weather, use this a signal to go deeper in the conversation. Life’s too short to be wasted on small talk. Deep talk brings us closer together. We love the Death Over Dinner project, encouraging people to…yep, you guessed it…organise a dinner and talk about death. Just beware that not everyone is open to deep talk:
- Some people have taken serious measures to overcome the fear of death. The Aghori Monks of Varanasi surround themselves with death and decay, including eating human flesh from recently dead bodies. They believe taking the Death Taboo to town brings them closer to enlightenment. Just don’t try this at home kids.
- When we don’t talk about death, when we don’t allow ourselves to grieve, this has negative consequences that can last a lifetime. Footballer Jonathan Walters talks about how he was sent back to school the day after his mum died, and he never really got over it: “F**king hell. My dad didn’t know what to do so he sent us into school to try and carry on being normal. My mum was almost a taboo subject after she passed away.”
- Sobunfu Some - a Dagara Elder - shares her beautiful wisdom on the importance of grieving as “an act of soul cleansing.”
- And finally, this is from a dear member of our tribe, Penny, who shared her experience of the Death Taboo when her dad was dying:
I always remember being stunned when I openly talked about my dad’s cancer being terminal, knowing there were so many father/daughter things I’d never have, and being met with “oh you never know it might all be alright”…it just left me wondering if they’d even heard what I’d just said or if they were choosing to belittle my experience. People often ignore or blame you for what they can’t fix.
For more details about our project to help families find their way through grief see the Apart of Me page or subscribe to our newsletter, below.