Hello, deathlings! Oh, wait, that’s Caitlin Doughty’s catchphrase. If you’ve never heard of Caitlin, she’s a quirky, bubbly Los Angeles mortician. Yep! Foxy lady/author/mortician. Not only is she stylish and authentic, she’s hilarious. Her popular YouTube channel Ask a Mortician deals frankly with all the questions you might have about death and the management of human remains. Caitlin is also the founder of the Order of the Good Death, an organization dedicated to promoting death positive attitudes.
Interestingly enough, I first heard of Doughty via her home tour on ApartmentTherapy. Before then, I’d never heard of anyone use the phrase “death positive”. If you’ve ever had a morbid curiosity about corpses, or waxed poetic about the beauty of bleached bones, Caitlin is a kindred spirit.
So what does Death Positive mean?
First of all, identifying as death positive doesn’t mean you welcome death or wish more people would die. It doesn’t even mean you’re not afraid of death. It’s about recognizing death for what it is: as a natural, normal part of life. Death positive means deciding to discuss it openly so people can make better decisions about their end-of-life wishes.
The Order of the Good Death has a list of the movement’s guiding principles. It starts with:
I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
Everything else flows from this belief that death should be brought out of the shadows and into public discourse. I highly recommend checking out the rest of their manifesto.
One of the best parts of this movement is that it’s flexible. Anyone can choose to be death positive! Like recycling or minimalism, you can add it to your lifestyle regardless of your religious beliefs or political views.
Why should anyone be Death Positive? How can it benefit me?
I don’t care who you are, adopting a death positive attitude can benefit you. I would even say it’s a crucial ingredient in cultivating a healthy, mindful life.
- For one, we all die. Literally. If you’re reading this, death affects you. Eventually, we all have to make peace with the fact that our physical bodies won’t last forever. We might as well start the conversation on a sunny day.
- Once you recognize your time on earth is limited, you might find it easier to focus on the present moment. By accepting that each hour is a precious, finite resource, we can make a conscious decision to clear through the mental clutter of procrastination, over-commitment, and self-doubt until all that’s left is what makes our hearts happy. By making time for the things that matter, we can live a higher quality of life today and every day.
- Thinking about death can cause you to dive deeply into your own spiritual beliefs. What do you think happens when we die? How do your feelings about that influence the way you live? Meditating on big questions can improve your spiritual health by strengthening your relationship with the Other.
- Once you die, your ability to make decisions is over. Do you want an elegant open-casket showing at a funeral home and a spot in a mausoleum? Or would you like an intimate home wake and eco-friendly green burial? Maybe you’d like your body to be cremated, or donated to science. Making decisions about your death beforehand gives you the power to align your post-mortem decisions with your values.
- The death of a loved one is a stressful time. Making your end-of-life wishes known to your family members is a generous way of removing extra stress or guilt from them by removing the burden of decisions from their shoulders.
How do I become Death Positive?
If you’ve made it this far into the post without checking out Caitlin’s YouTube channel, do yourself a favor and head over there now! Seriously, she is down-to-earth, light-hearted, and oh so spooky. You will probably binge her channel.
Next, hit up the following websites to learn more about the Death Positive movement and join the discussion.
- Order of the Good Death
- Death Positive Subreddit
- Death Cafe – in-person chat groups about death
What do you think? Is a death positive perspective a useful tool to help you get more out of life? Or does it seem strange and morbid? Do you know what you want to happen to your body when you die?