How to Transform Our Discomfort Around Death and Loss


Death unavoidably touches and changes us. Although we often deem death a negative force, the transformation it instigates can be positive. Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and death acceptance advocate, says, “Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love, and create.” Whether it motivates us to live more fully or calls us to examine our beliefs, death—our own or that of those we love—will affect us. Exactly how death and loss affects us is determined by our perspective and how we engage with the process.

Because fear of death and dying is common in contemporary Western culture, many of us do not hold an accepting attitude towards, nor do we actively participate in, the process. And yet, death is a primary source of what nourishes life. By engaging in a loved one’s dying process and staying present in the aftermath of their death, we can explore and ferment our values, evaluate and prioritize other relationships, and examine how we care for others and ourselves. And by intentionally cultivating a relationship with our own death—regardless of our age or degree of health—we might just be able to dispel our fears, sidestep unnecessary suffering, and enhance our quality of life.

But how exactly can we participate in death and dying, be present with grief, and prepare for our own end? I asked death experts, caregivers, and grievers about tangible ways we can engage with death …

What do you think?