“I refuse to have a terrible death”: the rise of the death wellness movement – Fast Company, 07 May 2019, Rina Raphael
Overcoming Life’s Last Taboo
“Dying as one wishes has become a luxury. Even though 70% of people would prefer to die at home surrounded by loved ones, most forfeit their future to a windowless hospital room, attached to tubes and monitors. What was once a homebound stage of life has become a lonely, sterilized experience with a host of unfamiliar faces. America, a country founded on rugged individualism and freedom, can’t accommodate even the simplest of last choices.”
Through the WI lens
The ‘death positive movement’ is on the march in the United States. What was once taboo has now become the focus of innovation as a still-nascent cottage industry arises to invent new ways of doing everything concerning death – and to re-discover traditions that have been lost. At the heart of the movement is the recognition that death is, in essence, part of life. Why live the good life, striving to achieve health and mental wellbeing, if your life ends in a way you would never desire? This piece charts how we got to the contemporary state of death, with its impersonal hospital rooms and stilted approach to discussing the topic, and surveys the panoply of ideas and initiatives that are seeking to make the end of life a more positive experience for everybody – from death doulas who provide support, to living wills and even Death Cafes where people meet to discuss death over tea and cake.
The take out? There’s clearly an opportunity for services for the dying that treat the subject holistically, rather than as a medical process. But a more candid conversation, one that allows people to confront their fears and express their wishes, is an aspect of this movement that has far-reaching implications for all those involved in healthcare and wellbeing.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”