Perhaps it’s the secret you don’t share. Or if you do, most don’t understand you’re fascination with all (or many) things death and mourning. You get that it’s strange in the eyes of most people, that we live in a culture that goes to great extremes to avoid discussing death. Sure, people are constantly dying on our televisions, movie screens, and in our video games, but we’ve become desensitized to that within our culture. Real talk about Death? What it means? How we want to die? How we want our final days to look? What we want done with our remains? No matter how many times one encounters death daily in our media culture, these are questions people shy away from. They make most people too uncomfortable.
The majority are largely uneducated about most things related to death, or worse, have a completely wrong impression, thanks to popular culture. They see the idea of intentionally looking at it – much less being drawn to do so – as sad, depressing, negative. But you? You find strange comfort in it, almost a…freedom. Yes, that’s it. In an inexplicable way, you find strength, beauty, and freedom within this fascination with what most consider morbid, or even macabre.
And no, you’re not looking to make an exit anytime soon, nor are you about to go all “Dexter” on folks (nor Charles Manson, in case you aren’t familiar with the “Dexter” reference). Rather, you’ve stumbled upon a path to an idea philosophers call “The Examined Life.” Rather than just living, you’re diving into life, and seeking understanding; seeking to live with intention, to find deeper meaning and purpose in it all. And, as with those who come before you, you’ve discovered – or are working your way through the process – that one cannot truly know life, nor be freed to live as fully as possible – until one has explored, and accepted, our mortality.
Our mortality is one of the bookends of life, birth being the other. It’s those bookends that hold our life together, give it shape, context. We know what it is to be alive, through the very fact that we are born, and die. Life is what happens between those two points; and it is actually made richer for their existence.
Why you, though? Why are you one of those who has become enraptured by these less-oft explored hallows? Perhaps you’ve been attracted to such things for as long as you can remember; or perhaps it is a more recent fascination, but something along the way cracked the door to this world open for you, and once you caught a glimpse inside, you couldn’t look away. There are many paths to this place, but many involve either the loss of a loved one, a near death experience or serious medical diagnosis, or encounters with death from a very young age. Some land on this path through deep existential explorations of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. These are Seekers, along with those who have been on what they likely name something akin to a Spiritual Quest, for as long as they can remember, ever drawn to discovering the underlying meaning of “It All.” For many, their arrival at the foot of this fascination is in reality a tangled combination of several of these factors.
However, the important takeaway is this: It doesn’t matter how you got here; it doesn’t matter if those around you get it. You need to know that you are not losing your mind, you’re not crazily morbid, nor have you turned into a budding sociopath, but rather, you’re awake and aware. And once you’ve opened your eyes, you cannot ignore the realities you’ve seen before you. You can’t run from the fact that you see – oh so clearly! – that dying can be done so much better than how it’s handled within our culture; as can mourning. And if that shift is made, you see too, that life – the actual living – could be so much better too.
You see a critical, desperate need for a return to dignity; a space where there could be far less heartache, and more healing; a space where we could be living more fully, and using our final days to create the perfect ending to a life story well-lived, and better understood by ourselves and those we leave behind, for the way in which we write our final days. You sense that it is through the acknowledgment of our eventual death that we can harness the power of the story we are inking with the moments of our lives, to write the best tale possible, with every action and every choice from here up until that ending; that we can use the knowledge that Death will someday arrive, to live more fully, more powerfully – and when those final days roll around, we can walk through a life review that makes sense, one that tells a full story, a story better for the context which holds it. You sense, too, that even in the 11th hour, one can turn their life story into something far more beautiful – even if they hadn’t done so before – by dying in a more conscious way, bringing proper closure, and healing, to themselves, and those around them.
You see – again oh-so-clearly – that it is only by working through our fear of the unknown we call death, that we are free to live, and love, more boldly and more beautifully. It breaks your heart to think of anyone dying without dignity; of dying without the chance and support to create the best ending possible; and to think of those who are left behind trying to find their way through the fog of grief, unassisted, unsupported, without the tools necessary for understanding, solely because we live in a culture that would rather stick its head in the sand, than acknowledge death’s presence, unless it’s slick and filled with tons of effects, on a Hollywood movie scene. You know in your bones: It could be done better. And you know you want it done better for yourself. For your loved ones. For everyone.
Congratulations, dear, dear reader. You aren’t strange at all. You are one of those whose heart has been cracked open by life, and instead of shattering into useless bits scattered across the span of your lifetime, it is instead allowing your love to spill out in ever bigger ways. Your fascination with death and mourning isn’t strange; it’s the natural response to seeing firsthand what you have; to sensing what you sense. It isn’t imagined. You’ve seen glimpses behind the curtain, caught a flash of the matrix, so to speak. Really though, what you’ve seen is the reality that we try desperately to gloss over in our culture. We glamorize death in our entertainment, and we anesthetize our relationship with it, by locking it away in hospitals, and having bodies swept away quickly after death, pumped up with chemicals to try to produce a more “life-like” look to the deceased, so we can pretend to ourselves they are merely sleeping. Any and everything to avoid facing the reality that’s there, the inevitable, the one great common denominator. You’re not strange, my dear sweet kindred soul, rather, you’re awake, eyes wide open, in a world doing everything it can to squeeze it’s eyes shut to the reality of the inevitable. And instead of burying your head in the sand, you’re eyes have opened wider, your heart and mind absorbing all they can.
You found your way here; this indicates not only have you the wisdom to improve things for yourself, but you’ve felt compelled to explore supporting others. Is loving humanity so much that your heart spills open, calls for you to seek out information on how to bring more dignity, peace, and comfort to your fellow humans, as they navigate that which they’ve spent so long running from, strange? I think not. Rather than a morbid or odd individual, you are a powerfully loving, giving one, who is exploring the call to become a death and mourning doula. Someone who is discerning which path is meant for them.
This may or may not be the path for you. But know this: Your fascination is nothing to be uncomfortable with; it isn’t strange. Rather it is a call to your heart. How you will answer it is something only you can decide. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it IS strange, in that only a few are called in this direction. Perhaps one day things will shift within our culture to the point where exploring these issues is as common as any other. Then it will be the norm. It is only strange now because so few have failed to do this all important work. That’s the only thing strange about it; you’re one of the rare ones. Nothing morbid about it; just unique. Beautifully, beautifully unique.
Congratulations on being extraordinary 🙂
As always, if you’re interested in learning more about becoming a death and mourning doula, check out our Momdoulary Passages 6-in-1 Training Program at MourningDoula.com. You can develop a new career in under a year, for about the cost of a little of a year’s worth of daily coffee at a chain coffee store. Many students re-coup the cost of training within their first few client experiences.