I was watching TV the other day and I stumbled across this new reality “gem”. It is a show about a funeral home in Dallas and some of their most outrageous themed funerals. Now, we discussed in class some of traditional funeral procedures and their origins and even touched on some more non-traditional ones like making diamonds out of organic material. However, none of them come close to some of the outrageous and unbelievable ceremonies shown in this show.
The premier of TLC’s new show let us sit in on some outrageous ceremonies including an urn-wedding in which the ashes of two people were “married”. The ceremony included a cake with molded chocolate urn toppers. In another proceeding, there was a breakfast themed funeral where guests were dressed as breakfast foods like eggs and bacon and the choir sings a custom breakfast themed hymn.
When I saw this, I thought about what we have learned in class this semester regarding such a sensitive topic and wondered if this show was doing more harm then good. Is it demonstrating how people cope with the death of a loved one or is it making a mockery of tradition and one’s memory? Also, can it’s over the top portrayal of funerals helping us become less death denying? I searched for some comments on the shows first episode and reviews were mixed. Some people seemed to like the show beyond any entertainment value. These viewers felt that the families were comforted and that the individual’s life was truly celebrated by a funeral revolving around what they loved. Others were upset and offended by the crazy funerals. Personally, I feel that making a show of this may be exploiting families in a sad and vulnerable time. However, if they are comforted by these crazy events and find importance in sharing it with others then more power to them.
The topic I have decided to discuss for my final blog is suicide. As we have learned in this class, America is a death denying culture. However, I think that out of all occurrences of death and dying suicide is the least comfortable to discuss. I believe this for a few reasons. Firstly, nobody likes to think that somebody would take their own life before their time. It is heavily influenced by depression and sadness which causes those closest to the person to feel a sense of responsibility for the death. Family members will struggle with the concepts that they did not do enough to help while others will feel angry that they were never asked for help. I would go as far to say that the grief and coping that comes with a suicidal type death is the most damaging to the human psyche. Most significantly, I believe that suicide deaths are so hard to discuss because there has been a point in every single person’s life that they briefly considered the “easy way out”. Now, whether or not they will admit to this or not deep down we all know it is true. Therefore, when someone close commits suicide, it brings to the surface everyone’s darkest points of their past. This is why we try so hard to dismiss and push back any kind of feelings for a suicidal related death.
Depression has run rampant through America these past few decades especially in college campuses. Some studies theorized that due to the rising increase in social Medias and texting people no longer know how to be alone with their thoughts. I walk around campus here and it is difficult to find someone without head phones in their ears or a phone in their hand. When people are shut off from these mediums they feel like they are alone. If we cannot find a way to lower the rising depression levels, I believe we will see a sudden jump in the number of suicidal deaths in this country.
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on when someone says your name for the last time.” -Banksy
I’ve been in and out of hospitals throughout my life, working, volunteering and visiting loved ones. Death is something that we all face in our lives; our own deaths, the death of a stranger, a loved one, a famous person. When we study and examine death we come face to face with morality and it gives us some perspective on our lives and others. There have been many patients and families that I’ll always remember for how they grieved and how they died. I’ve been very lucky to have the experiences that I do.
The quote that I put at the top of this blog is something that’s always stuck with me. It is important to remember our mortality but it is equally important to remember to live our lives so well that we have an impact on the world and those around us.
In this class we covered grieving, bereavement, suicides, traumatic deaths and many topics in between. One of the biggest things I took from this class aside from the knowledge on powerpoints is a better understanding of a key part of peoples lives. I feel that I have had a wonderful opportunity to learn from my classmates and their beliefs on such a taboo topic.
Suicide is something many people look at as a cowardly way out of life. Suicide though can be much more complicated then that. That is what I’d like to use this blog to talk about. Suicide itself can be caused from someone simply not wanting to live anymore because of mental distress but it can also be caused by different kind of diseases of which are terminal. For example, some diseases such as cancer, many people are diagnosed and told they only have so long to live. Now, this may make someone want to live his or her life to the fullest or they could resort to suicide. Now, this is where the controversy comes in. Should we, as human beings, have the right to choose whether or not we want to live or die, or should this right be something that other people such as family and friends should have a say in.
This is where something called physician assisted suicide comes into play. This is normally where most of the controversy comes into play. Only in a few countries is physician assisted suicide accepted and the United States of America isn’t one of those countries. Personally, I do not accept this as something that should be done. It just seems morally wrong in my eyes for many reasons. What if the patient has a mental issue and can’t make fully sound decisions on their own. And what if the patient and physician have a language barrier and they’re unable to communicate that they don’t actually want it or don’t want it in a certain way. Overall, I feel that physician assisted suicide is wrong and shouldn’t be accepted in any manner, regardless of whether the patient thinks they’re capable of making that decision knowingly.
Overall, suicide will always be a very controversial topic and will be argued for generations to come, I just hope that one day we can agree on what is and what isn’t acceptable.
For this blog, we could choose anything our heart desires that was relayed in the class. Well it’s really hard to think of something but then I remembered why: we are a death denying culture. I think this is the one topic that made the most sense to me because I was able to understand the culture in which I live a lot more. I was able to understand new aspects of myself and things that I have experienced in the past few months.
In march of this year a lost my grandfather, and we were really close. After his death I felt like I went a little wild, going out and partying and isolating myself away from my family as if it didn’t happen and it helped. It made me feel a lot better about grieving, at least at the moment. More recently I began to truly grieve for him and i almost feel like it was a lot worse than when my parents grieved.
Then in April, I found myself in the hospital, not for any party relating incidents, I just caught some rare super bug. I was in and out of consciousness so I don’t really recall a lot except that it was a very hush hushed experience. Now knowing what I know, about how seriously I’ll I was and how easily I could have died, I understand why it was talked about as if it was nothing, and how every time someone brings it up at the dinner table it’s brushed off as if it didn’t happen.
The world is death denying, it might happen to other people, other cultures, but never will it happen or almost happen to us. And now I realize that, as humans we purposefully deny the existence of a death in order to make ourselves feel stronger and show that no change is needed in our life. It is a common response due to evolutionary instances. As these are the two things that every human biologically have in common as a survival instinct. So denying death is actually more of coping mechanism that we use in order to extend our lifetimes rather than a choice. But only in the aspect of it actually happening to one, personally, that you find yourself death denying.
There are so many things I had never even considered before I took this class. Some of the few thoughts I had on death is that there is a degree of hysteria surrounding it whenever it happens. Thankfully I have never personally been too close to any tragic or sudden deaths. Also very few close family members have passed away. The hardest aspect of any funeral for me is typically to see the person who is most saddened by the loss and their reaction.
That being said, I have never experienced a loss I was not able to handle thus far. When my grandfather died, he had been battling Parkinson’s disease for many years, and had been slowly fading away for a while. In a similar way, my grandmother had battled Alzheimer’s disease for many years before finally passing away. In both of these circumstances the loss was foreseeable, and we had the concept that they were dying for a little while before they actually did die.
Loss, for me, is an interesting concept. When we did the activity that you had to write down all of your favorite things and cross them off as you went along, I really discovered a lot about what I would hate to lose. I have always known that when I lose my dad I will be very emotional, and difficult to console, and I know that if I were to unfortunately lose my fiancé I would be out right inconsolable. But I suppose I didn’t really realize how much my friends meant to me, as I found myself giving up my favorite parts, even of my body, in order to keep them on my list.
I say all of that almost as a disclaimer in order to say that loss has been an easy experience for me so far. The losses that I have experienced have been manageable, and predictable. But most importantly I have an easy time with loss because I have a deep and strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He has the few family members that I have lost with Him, and that they are in a better place. If it weren’t for some of the few that I have lost, my parents may not have grown up with the strong faith that they did, and if they had not grown up with the strong faith which they had, then neither would I. And this faith that they helped to grow in me is the one thing that I shall never, ever lose.
Recently we discussed traumatic death and that has had an impact on the way I viewed things with the loss of my grandmother. Accidents are the fifth cause of death in the United States. Having this knowledge reminds me that I am not alone in the experiencing a traumatic death and that many people have confusing coping processes because of the unexpected event. Learning the common characteristics among traumatic deaths opened up my understanding. I now understand why it was so hard for me to cope. Losing my grandmother in a car accident was abrupt and allowed me no time to adjust to life without her- no time for the idea of life without her. With my grandmother acting as my caretaker while my mother worked to support us, life after was a disaster. We all were most hurt because it could have easily been prevented in many ways. She could have come with us on our trip, my aunt could have waited until the rain had stopped to drive her home, and the other driver could have used more sense when driving recklessly. After many years, I realize it is important to let go. Things happen for a reason and are out of our control for a purpose.
After reflecting over the entire semester I also found that watching the film “Between Life and Death” also impacted me greatly. I remembering crying harder than normal during the movie, and now I know it was not because of the movie but because of the memories it evoked of my grandmother. She was in a persistent vegetative state and had no brain function. My mother was the next of kin and deemed responsible for making the decision of continuing to prolong her medical induced coma or taking her off the ventilator. We believed it was most humane to take her off of life support. After watching the movie, it confirmed my belief in that my mother made the right decision. Allowing for the memories to resurface gave me the opportunity to really process everything that happened. I had suppressed them for so long, it was time I had dealt with the big issues surrounding her death.
We talked about medical advancements changing the way death occurs. From personal experience, I do believe now in most cases it is a process rather than an event. My grandmother was resuscitated three times before arriving to the hospital. I do believe everyone deserves a fighting chance, but I must argue how much fight is in a person when they need life sustaining medical equipment. It is really hard to decide what I would want in a situation like this. I would like to think I would rather not die in a hospital, but there is something about humanity that always pushes us to try to survive instead of gracefully letting go. I appreciate this class for making me consider end of life decisions and exciting my passion for life.