Holding a Healthy End of Life Outlook When Tragedy is Forefront of Our Consciousness
By Shari Stern, Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®
The concept of a Death Positive lifestyle when faced with Tragic Death can seem like a luxury. However, it is a luxury that all of us- humans across the earth- are entitled to. This means we are mentally prepared to die- hopefully with our final affairs in order, our body and spirit open to release, and we give permission for our living loved ones to feel comforted in our serenity as they mourn our loss. Perhaps you imagine being memorialized in a ceremony, your legend becomes cemented through social media posts, and through story and impact you leave an impression on your community. My work as a Life-Cycle Celebrant encourages this kind of acceptance of our inevitable death. As Hank Williams and Fred Rose stated through song: “No matter how hard I try, I’ll never get out of this world alive.” There is comfort in believing that our exit will be as smooth as possible.
However, as the people of Ukraine are being killed by a Despot- our thoughts of our own death and ritual process is pressured. I am finding it somewhat difficult to chat the principles around ceremony and goodbye- when people are being tragically killed in Ukraine. A Tragic Death- a life cut short through war, accident, violence, illness, act of nature- is a whole other situation where we have to look at the concept of a Good Death through a different lens. All who work in the Death Care industry have to acknowledge and work with Tragic Deaths as part of our work. The war in Ukraine has brought to all our various screens the images and stories of unimaginable death and suffering. Even though none of us are immune from facing a Tragic Death, the stories around the horrors and the conditions of Ukraine has brought the concept of such miserable death more forward in our consciousness.
I held off from posting a social media story about a workshop I recently conducted – about Grief on Social Media and Green Burial options and impact. When the world is mourning over casualties and impact of war, it felt somewhat trivial to spotlight discussion of such topics so freely. After struggling in my mind whether such content is relevant in a Tragic Death environment, the reality is- living with the acceptance of a Good Death principle can allow your present life to feel more fulfilled. Knowing that one day you’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive– whether through tragedy or that life has naturally run its course- we can live more purposely and with more intent. My purpose for customized ceremony, end of life planning, reflection, and a Death Positive life outlook feels shadowed against the terrors experienced by the people of Ukraine, for those Russian citizens who are risking their lives by openly protesting the invasion, for all the cultural or territorial wars that occur in other corners of the world without the lens of popular media coverage, and for so many other causes of Tragic Deaths. Perhaps you felt this way too in your own field of work or purpose you bring to the world, that spotlighting your passion suddenly seems so trivial when life and humanity is in such fragility. I have taken the time to pause and grapple with such a vital concept. In the meantime, since no matter how hard we’ll try, none of us will ever get out of this world alive, well, there is work to do. Acknowledge the compassion and pain of such tragedy, channel that energy to support the causes and purposes you believe in, and may we all have the luxury of a good death.