Is it truly possible to have a good death?
If you’re reading this, there is a chance you might be triggered or offended by this idea.
In fact, we’ve had folks get offended by us referring to anything around death as “beautiful”.
And if you’re in the midst of a grief storm, I can totally see how that might seem offensive.
However, if you’re not actively in a grief storm, and you’re truly curious about the possibility of having a “good” death, there is plenty to explore around this topic.
And you can start with this blog.
Reasons to explore a “good” death
If you’re thinking “how on Earth could that possibly be?” I invite you to keep reading.
If you’re offended by the title, I invite you to keep reading.
If you think death sucks and you never want to think about it again, I invite you to keep reading.
If you’re curious about death and want to build a relationship with it because you recognize it’s valuable, I invite you to keep reading.
So far, all fingers point to —> KEEP READING.
Here’s 6 practices to try and contemplate a “good” death:
#1: Learn your birth story
One of the stories that is the most important in our life, yet often gets lost, is our birth story. Many times we don’t have the curiosity around our birth story until it’s too late and our parents have passed on, or have forgotten. One important way to keep your ancestry alive, and to explore the passages of birth and death (which are very similar), is to learn the details of your birth story.
Our invitation is to contact both of your parents (if possible) or anyone who was present at your birth (if possible) and ask some questions we offer below.
Some questions to ask around your birth story:
- The general story around your conception
- The life events and general story around your time in gestation in the womb
- Where you were born
- Who was present when you were born
- How you were born (ie. c-section, natural birth, etc.)
- Were any medications involved in your birth (ie. epidermal)?
- Were there any complications during your birth?
- When did you go home?
- Any significant memories around your birth and first few weeks of life?
- Who was most present during your first months of life?
It might sound silly to know all of this, after all, you’re not a doctor or anything. However, these stories are important to hold with us, and pass down to our children and grandchildren. And, it will help you explore the connection between birth and death, which we’re going to cover in our next point…
#2: Identify the connections between birth and death
It might sound morbid at first, but there are many connections between birth and death. In some ways, the passage of birth and death is very similar. Remember the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for example?
Watch the clip below for a refresher, or in case you never saw the movie:
Above, you see how death brings us closer to the idea of birth. In both passages, we lose our ability to walk, talk, remember, etc. And in both passages, we are coming and going from this life, and to where, is up for much debate depending on your own beliefs.
By exploring the possibility that death can be similar to birth, does it take the fear away for you? What does it do for you? Contemplate on this, and let us know what you come up with.
If you need more help, here’s some words from the Buddha to get you inspired:
This body is not me, I am not caught in this body.
I am life without boundaries. I have never been born,
and I shall never die.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations of my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
birth and death are only doors through which we
pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.
birth and death are just a game of hide and seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say goodbye,
say goodbye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source at every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.
#3: Learn the story of your relative’s deaths
Sometimes (but perhaps always), it’s a good idea to go directly into the fear(s) that you actively avoid. Death is no exception. There’s this common mentality that talking about death might make it contagious or something. Some feel that the more you talk about death, the closer you are to it. And I’m here to tell you that’s not necessarily true.
Currently, our culture doesn’t discuss death until we have to. But if we discuss it before it’s our time to go, we ready our consciousness more to the idea, and we increase our chances of having a better death.
And yes, there is such a thing as a good death. In fact, there’s a whole podcast about it (which is quite famous in the death industry). Learning about my relative’s deaths was one of the most healing things I’ve done around death so far.
You can ask about how your relatives approached their passing, where they passed, how they passed, any lessons or wisdom they shared, or any lessons or wisdom gained from witnessing the passage.
We promise if you ask about death, you won’t die. So try it, and see where it takes you.
#4: Read books about death
Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, some of the most deeply inspiring books I’ve ever read have been about death. Some of them include “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron and “The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche.
These two books look at death and endings in unique ways that are sure to open the mind around the concept of death. Both books are rooted deeply in Buddhism, so if you come from a Christian mindset (most of us do) they’re both great perspective shifters.
Mostly, these books have helped me to realize that death is something we can truly practice many times before we actually die. Because we’re always dying, in some ways. We’re always shedding, to become reborn again and again.
Some examples of deaths (that aren’t the ultimate one) are breakups, the seasons changing, rejections, the answer “no” and big life transitions. How do you handle those little deaths in life? Practicing being present for these will help you be the most present for the ultimate send-off.
#5: Explore the topic of death with your therapist or a death doula
Let’s be honest, most of us need a mentor or therapist in order to feel functional and supported in our hyper-productive lifestyle. So if you don’t have one, I highly recommend it for your mental health!
Then, once you have a therapist or mentor, talking about any of your fears or expectations around death with them is crucial. If you’re not into therapists or don’t want to hire one, try doing a session with a Death Doula to explore any fears or stories that may be holding you back from having a “good” death.
The thing is that when we don’t think about our deaths, we end up putting stress on our families by not making important decisions around our death. We also put stress on ourselves because when it comes our time to go, we don’t have our ducks in a row, and it can add restrictions around our ability to let go.
Ultimately, the more we explore these topics, with support of experts, the less stress and anxiety we leave for ourselves and others.
#6: Venerate the dead
In our American culture, it’s considered “weird” or “creepy” to venerate our dead. However, in other cultures, it’s more than not weird… it’s a huge part of how these cultures stay healthy and well.
Ever heard of Dia de las Muertos, or Day of the Dead? For a friendly, PG version of how it’s celebrated, check out this clip from the Pixar movie Coco:
Venerating our dead is something that is truly an honor. It’s important to honor our ancestors, those who came before us, and to pay homage to how we sit on the shoulders of everything they’ve done for us to be where we are today. It not only gives us strength, but it gives us great inspiration as well.
Try it yourself with some of these ideas:
- Light a candle for your ancestors
- Print or find photos of your ancestors and passed family members and…
- Make an altar for your ancestors
- Hold a ritual of your own on Dia de Las Muertos & borrow some of the traditions and also create some of your own
- Ask your family about those who have passed
- Find out any rituals your ancestors practiced, and incorporate them into your life
We hope this guide helps you build a bit of a more intimate relationship with death.
Have any other questions, ideas or stories relevant to this post? Post them in the comments below!