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How Do You Deal with the Subject of Death?

Updated on June 30, 2013

© Ytsenoh

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” -- C.S. Lewis, "A Grief Observed"

Do You and Your Family Have Open Discussions About Death?

We all know the joy of life and watching a newborn in the arms of first-time parents. We embrace the subject of life and we don't necessarily accept and live with the reality of death until we have that first-time experience with this subject. Does this mean that society should reconstruct and redefine death in order to embrace its reality.

What death means changes over time. Being told it's a part of life, or that it's a fact of life, or it's part of the living reality doesn't seem to be enough to lay the groundwork. We have educational resources to help with that groundwork. When we experience a death, we have counselors prepared to address grief. For the terminally ill, we have hospice care and we have resources to go to relative to suicidal tendencies.

The topic of death is popularized with movies; however with the comedy films, the humorous context still keeps the subject at a distance. We have daily news reports of death related circumstances of people around the world, but it's not personally affecting all of us yet, so there can be a lack of conscious concern. The anxiety of death does affect us. Should people be conditioned and enlightened form childhood with information to give rise to a new thoughts and feelings on discussing death and a complete awareness of its part in our lives?

In society, we can see more spiritually minded people coupled with other people's religious belief systems that help them to cope with a more meaningful definition of life because it enables them to accept that death occurs. It helps them deal with the fear. It also helps them to know or believe that there's life after death, or that they will see their loved ones again. We don't like to be reminded of our mortality. We have to learn how to openly discuss our fears and keep in mind that it took a long time before people were openly expressing their emotions with death, the ability to talk about it more freely should evolve, but not without facing the fear of death.

There are so many details involved with dealing with death, i.e., how a person died, who the person was in our life and how we will accept the reality of that person's death. For our parents, we need to inform ourselves about facilities that assist with end-of-life care, which will enable us to better understand how they operate and their purpose. My first lesson with this was when my father was dying. Hospice helps families cope with pain and helps the dying family member to live through their inevitable event. Hospice can help in proving information pertaining to support groups.

We may procrastinate on talking about death, but we need to have some type of plan or our finances in order, including what funeral process we desire to alleviate these burdens from our surviving family members. It's important to care more about the people who are dying from a healthcare provider standpoint. As difficult as it may sound, when you are a main family caregiver, too, you seem to instinctively know how to step up and help others copy with their losses. Unexpected deaths, including suicides, can occur to anyone. And, death, will most certainly occur to all of us.

As a result of war, we memorialize people as we should. With the tragedy of September 11, we were reminded that death can present itself at any moment when we least expect it, thereby reminding us to value life. During this tragedy, I had a friend who was on a plane on his way to Chicago. I was worried and couldn't wait to hear he had landed.

"Tomorrow" is not a promise. We all have different ways of looking at death. Some people believe in an afterlife, while others do not. We need to curb ourselves from believing that death is scary and unpleasant, and dark and gloomy. We need to address our fears of pain related deaths and know that death isn't something that just occurs to the aged.

Fortunately, we have more positive learning tools with the subject of death. We see more people turning to hospice for help. There are also situations in which physicians help with assisting death and some places may legally permit this act. We have counselors who help people deal with grief.

Do we need to be trained from an early age that death is a natural part of our lives to help lessen the anxiety of dying? Has death become so technical that there is less room for natural death? When faced with a terminal illness, we should be afforded the opportunity to die where we wish when the quality of life has diminished. It's not always possible to have what we want, but the right to die when death is imminent should be an option for us.

Have Funeral Practices in Our Society in the United States Changed?

Some attitudes and customs still hold true in some societies in relation to funeral practices in American society's social construction. for example, we still commit to emotional display in both private and public settings when a death has occurred. Because we seem to treat death as a concept, it appears that we still protect children from attending funerals to some degree. A child, then, may not be able to see the funeral as a natural event, but more of a social occurrence.

We still wear black to funerals, although it's a pattern that some are breaking. Some religious sects see deaths with their accompanying funerals as celebrations of the lives of the deceased. The Muslims, for example, do not believe in embalming or dissecting. The body is treated sacredly by washing it and covering it with a shroud. The Hindus believe that pure water place din the mouth of the deceased washes away sins and they mourn for 13 days. The Jewish also wash the body and dress it in a shroud and also do not believe in embalming. They don't believe in cremation or autopsies and perform no wakes.

Most people in American society are buried in cemeteries. If the deceased left instructions with surviving family members or friends, those wishes are to be carried out accordingly. A person, while still alive, is given the choice to donate body organs upon death. Based upon their religious beliefs, if there are any, the funeral can be planned around that belief system. The body is always treated with respect, however.

We are conditioned to visit the markers at cemeteries of a lost loved one. This has assisted as a healing tool to cope with the loss. We want to preserve and memorialize the death of a family member that we could never begin to prepare for.

Death is viewed by some as a profit scheme for funeral homes. Everything has a price tag attached to it and some of those prices are viewed as ludicrous. That makes death, then, a burden for the one who is preparing financially for it to arrive.
Death is viewed by some as a profit scheme for funeral homes. Everything has a price tag attached to it and some of those prices are viewed as ludicrous. That makes death, then, a burden for the one who is preparing financially for it to arrive.

Preparation of the Body and Other Procedural Requirements

Aside from the preparation of the body, an whether an open or close casket viewing at a visitation, the same visitors can attend the funeral unless specified otherwise. A death certificate is required, which is usually prepared by the funeral home to be submitted to the state for certification. The funeral home carries out the wishes of the family at a cost.

Embalming isn't as widely performed unless necessary. Sometimes autopsies are required, which are dependent on the cause of death. What costs are involved with a funeral may be dependent on whether or not the deceased had any insurance, or if the family members can or cannot make contributions. There is also the factor of time for all these events to occur to assist with the grieving process with what people have come to know as closure.

There's also the placement of the body that's considered by some, that is, the position the body is place din the casket and then there's the position it's placed in the cemetery. Some societies believe the body is returned to the fetal position and wrapped and placed on its side and this can be applied to burial or cremation. Cremation serves to some who hold the belief that upon burning, the soul and spirit is released from the body. Noteworthy, more people choose cremation because it is less costly.

Most funerals are performed through the church of the deceased and coordinated with the funeral home. Obituaries of the deceased usually appear in the paper or on an on-line site where condolences can be offered. While a surviving family member or friend might believe that life continues to move forward, it seldom quickly does. Time does not heal the pain; it's only a factor to help people learn to live with it.

Our cemeteries are integrated with people of different cultures, races and religions now. We have people buried underground and above ground. There are more corporation owned funeral homes to work with now as opposed to the family owned entity, and there are price lists are are now available to the public for its awareness of the costs. for the most part, the whole process seems to be what the family just wants to get over with because it's still a part of a society that denies death.

How Do You Grieve?

Every individual performs a different and unique grieving process that is right for that individual. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve as opposed to good versus bad. A culture's role in grieving is formed by the very way it conditions its society to respond.

The way we grieve can also be dependent upon the way in which we witnessed a loss, be it a terminal illness or an unexpected one such as suicide. We will draw upon the information we have been given since birth, which includes media presentation and family conversations. These things will have formulated certain attitudes and feelings. We will also draw upon any religious beliefs, if any. If we do not accept the death as a reality, we will have anxieties to contend with and sorrow we continue to bury, and we may be unconsciously inviting problems.

Our culture plays a major role in the way we might choose to respond because it has fed our minds since birth. We might begin to question if there really is an afterlife at a certain life stage. We may experience denial responses that can be evidenced through our behaviorism, i.e., becoming suddenly over-productive. We might put on a mask that says we're not denying death, but that we're just busy at the moment. We might tell people that we know what happened, but not really believe that it did. We might just utterly resist believing that the death occurred, or we might deny it altogether to convince ourselves that we don't have anything to cope with at all.

We experience bereavement when we have lost someone who was especially close to us. When we go through the emotional roller coaster, we are experiencing grief. The way we express ourselves (mourning) is in some ways set by the society we live in. There is no rule to apply to how long it takes a person to grieve. How a person reacts or responds is also dependent upon how he or she can cope with other forms of stress. It's not just an emotional reaction, but it's physical as well. Unhealthy grieving can affect a person's well-being if the condition goes unnoticed. The way we grieve is also dependent upon how close we were to the person we lost. For example, losing a parent or a child are two of the greatest losses we can experience.

I am not a "clock" person, so I do not take the view that there is a time certain in which a person has to experience grief. If it takes five years, then it takes five years. It's how the person will experience the condition in a healthy manner that is important and this includes having an emotional support system. People need help to get through a loss of any kind an this includes having someone to listen to their expressions when they need them to listen. The saddest scenario would be when a person feels there is no one at all to just be there when necessary.

Further, there is nothing wrong in seeking professional help. That is the mind's way of telling the person that something isn't quite right. We don't want people starving their bodies, developing unhealthy habits, or contemplating committing suicide due to a loss. We don't want people having to experience lengthy states of depression if it can be helped or prevented.

We live in a society wherein people don't like to go to funerals because they don't like to deal with the topic of death, but are forced to when someone close to them dies. They aren't taught what they might expect to feel emotionally or how it could affect them physically. Some people feel that their grieving should take a back seat due to their other responsibilities, or, they allow those responsibilities to be in the way from feeling and expressing what is necessary.

We have to be fixated on taking care of ourselves because of what has been statistically shown to occur from a health stance when we have lost someone close. If we lose one parent, we need to help monitor the well-being of the surviving parent. We have to have information to guide us in what we are experiencing, especially when it's an unexpected occurrence which could lead to what's known as post-traumatic stress disorder. We have to have a family that supports us, a job that supports us and a society that wants to be kept well informed which will, in turn, support us.

All photos are a product of morgueFile free photos.


Submit a Comment
  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    SilentReed, thanks much for your comment, and so much of which I agree with. Thanks for your read and time and mostly your comment.

  • SilentReed profile image


    5 years ago from Philippines

    Base on one's cultural background we may have different ways of commemorating the passing of a love one yet all share the same emotion of grief. Rituals and religious ceremonies help us cope with our grief. Compare to indigenous or aboriginal practices where you find wailing mourners and the public display of sorrow, modern practice tend to sanitize death to make it more acceptable. There is the the mistaken belief that giving expression to grief will led to a breakdown. Some are also embarrass by any outward display of emotions. Yet it is better for the healing process to express during this time as much grief as one actually feel. Instead of making small talk to distract attention from the loss, friends should allow themselves to be the sounding board for the grief of the bereaved. To offer them the opportunity and encouragement to talk about their loss, dwell upon their sorrow and reminisce about the qualities and virtues of the departed ones.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Ms. Dora, so nice to hear from you. Thanks for coming by. Hope all is well with you.

    Janetwrites, thanks so much for your kind words and time. Hope your Monday is off to a great start.

    Marion, thanks for your comment. Yes, it's a difficult subject, but it's a subject worthy of explanation, especially to our children and in an effort to banish the attached fear. Nobody wants to die, but the point is that's a part of living. Have a good week.

    DDE, thanks for your read. I really appreciate it!

    MrsBrownParlour, hope all is well in Chicago! Thanks for your compliment and comment. Most grateful.

    Mhatter99, I couldn't agree more. Listening is the kindest thing anyone could do when trying to comfort someone who has experienced a loss. Very interesting that you have officiated services. Very nice.

    Thanks so much to all of you!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 years ago from The Caribbean

    Comprehensive and beautiful expressions on death! Your presentations on all the various aspects are excellent!

  • janetwrites profile image

    Janet Giessl 

    5 years ago from Georgia country

    Death belongs to our life. It's not easy to write about this topic but in my opinion you have found the important points. Overall, you have done a great job. Though my son is only 4 I explained to him what death is. Probably, he doesn't understand the whole meaning but he knows that people who are dead won't wake up anymore.

  • marion langley profile image

    marion langley 

    5 years ago from The Study

    Very brave topic choice and one everyone can relate to. My daughter by five had all kinds of mortality questions which I felt comfortable answering but some of the extended family was mortified when she attempted to discuss death and dying with them. Needless to say they don't like to talk about it. I wish it was seen as more natural...I miss the days when the body was washed and laid out by the family. Seeing the physical body of the deceased has always helped me mourn...not sure why but I encourage others to see the body if they can. Thanks for writing!

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    There was a time when not everyone would speak of death but recently it has become part of most conversations. I am not sure how I would handle death, a difficult subject to speak of

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Sensitive, well-constructed, intelligent discourse on a subject that is relevant to everyone yet too often avoided. I have read "A Grief Observed" and was greatly touched by it. Valuable writing here....sharing! ~Lurana

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    5 years ago from San Francisco

    Thank you for this reflection After officiating at 247 funerals I found it is best to listen. My plot is waiting for me.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Always exploring, I love your name; reminds me of what we should all do all the time...always explore! Thanks much for your comment. I felt I finally had to write another article. I've been absorbed in wedding plans for months for my daughter and since she's getting married in 13 days now, I had to write something!

    Tillsontitan, Thank you much! I think that phrase, "tomorrow is not a promise" is a great one and it's so true! I experienced grief in different ways and always observed my responses.

    Hawaiianodysseus/Joe, thank you so much for your comment and kind words. It is a challenging subject, but it is part of life also. Aloha back at ya!

    Ah, Billy, thanks so much for your words and comment. I'm very grateful for the visit and time. Do have an awesome week!

    Best regards, all.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    5 years ago from Southern Illinois

    Interesting and useful hub. Coping with death is difficult, but necessary to continue on our journey. I think it is important to explain death with children. ( When they are old enough to understand. ) Thank you for sharing...

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    5 years ago from New York

    "Tomorrow" is not a promise...well said. We all know death is inevitable and yet we avoid the subject whenever possible.

    I especially liked your advice on the time it takes to grieve, whatever the time is, that's the time. Everyone grieves differently. Well done hub.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 

    5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    This is a remarkably well crafted article on a challenging topic. You've managed to present your points in an interesting and compelling fashion. Thank you very much for doing all of this in good taste and with grave respect. Aloha!


  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    By the time I was nineteen I had lost everyone in my family except for my mother. It took me half my life to learn how to deal with death.

    Great discussion here my friend. Well done1


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