A Bittersweet Paradox: Talking about Death is Talking about Life

I am honored that Maria Shriver’s blog invited me to guest blog last week.  Her philosophy that “by sharing our worlds, we help one another make our lives matter” resonates with me.

 

Thanatology

 

I have received wonderful responses from the post which further confirms my belief that people are thinking about death & dying and ultimately they do want to talk about it, but just not sure where, when, or how.  During my Gatherings we talk about why our society doesn’t talk openly about death & dying.  Overall the responses are fascinating and varied in the way they are expressed, but yet a few common themes emerge: “Fear/anxiety/denial/vulnerability”, “We don’t want to seem morbid, depressed, or negative”, “We are afraid that if we talk about it, death will happen, we’ll be tempting fate”, and “Talking about death and dying is too emotional and personal”.  However, at the Gatherings when we discuss why we should talk openly about death & dying the list grows long, because there are so very many reasons: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, relational, societal, generational, and universal reasons!

In our culture, we spend a great deal of time defining “living well.” Let’s learn together what it means to “die well.” Let’s lean into the paradox, lean into the tension between wanting to talk about death and not wanting to talk about death.  Talking about death is talking about life.

 

 

 

Personal Thanatology

Personal Thanatology


It’s a Matter of Life and Death

 

Create a Personal Thanatology.  I’ll listen and encourage as you discover your unique perspective of what is important to you in Living Well & Dying Well.  I believe that when we talk more openly about death and dying, we are able to support and care for ourselves and one another more deeply.  It’s a simple message about a complex topic ~ talking about death and dying will improve the world we live in.

Thanatology

than · a · tol · o · gy                    [than-uh-tol-uh-jee]

n. the study of death and dying

Personal Thanatology

Reflect · Share · Live

v.   the lifelong discovery process where you (1) reflect on and explore your personal experiences, thoughts, memories, beliefs, stories and questions about death and dying; (2) share your ideas and stories with family, friends and acquaintances; then (3) live life based in what you value and brings you meaning ~ live your Philosophy of Life.

My goal in introducing this concept is to encourage people of all ages to be more comfortable with conversations about death and dying. Never to diminish the sadness and suffering of death, dying, grief, and loss, but to also be open to the love, peace, and support that are possible.

Today, remember a death experience you have had in your lifetime, anywhere from a childhood experience to a current experience of death, dying, grief, or loss.   Can you tell someone your story, can you listen to theirs?  Please remember to be gentle with yourself.  Compassion and non-judgment towards self and others is an essential ingredient in creating a

Personal Thanatology


Reflect · Share · Live

 

 

 

Death by Chocolate

Last year I received some unsolicited marketing advice that I can’t get out of my head.   After learning about my book, my airplane seat mate, leaned over and said, “Lady, you’ve got a hell of a problem ahead,  you need to make death attractive, like a candy bar, it’s not going to be easy”.*

For me, it is fascinating to listen to stories, thoughts, beliefs, and experiences that people have with death, dying, grief, and loss and learn how these experiences impact their lives.  I find most people do want to talk about their “death and dying” experiences and ideas when asked.  But it is paradoxical.  About eight out of ten people also share that they are afraid if they talk about death, it might happen. Often they comment on how it is uncharacteristic of them to be superstitious, but yet they can’t help thinking they might be “jinxing” their lives by talking about death.

Do you think eating this dessert will be tempting fate?

Should I bring samples of Death by Chocolate to my marketing appointments?

Death by Chocolate

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

 

8 oz (225 g) dark semisweet chocolate (40-50% cocoa)
2/3 cup (140 g) butter
1 cup (210 g) sugar
4 eggs
4 heaped tablespoons (1 dl) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoon baking powder or 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sour cream

Ingredients for frosting

 

2/3 cup (1.6 dl) heavy cream or whipping cream
9 oz (260 g) semisweet chocolate (40-50% cocoa)

Method

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F (Gas mark 4 or 180 deg C).
  2. Line a circular 10 inch (25 cm) cake tin (3 inches tall) with grease proof or other non-stick paper and grease the tin. (Please note that the cake will rise to 3 inches and collapse somewhat when cooled. If your cake tin is less than 10 inches wide and 3 inches tall we recommend that you use two cake tins.)
  3. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it with butter over hot water.
  4. Beat the eggs with sugar, mix with flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly fold in the melted butter and chocolate and the sour cream.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 40 to 50 minutes (if using 2 cake tins 20-30 minutes may be sufficient).
  7. Cool the cake completely. When it has obtained room temperature place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before removing the cake from the tin (the cake is sticky and difficult to cut when it is warm!) Remove the crusted surface on the top of the cake, and cut in half, horizontally.

Frosting

 

  1. Heat 2/3 cup (1.6 dl) of heavy cream or whipping cream in a sauce pan.
  2. Remove from heat, add 9 oz (260 g) of finely chopped dark semisweet chocolate, stir until smooth, and let it cool until in thickens.
  3. Use one 1/3 of the frosting between the two layers, 1/3 on top, and the rest around the cake. Put the cake into the fridge for one hour or more to harden the frosting.
  4. This cake should have room temperature when served.

 

* About ten minutes later he told me about the death and funeral of his beloved Grandmother.

Healing Grief ~ Interview with Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD

Even though grief and grieving are a natural aspect of life, it can be overwhelming physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D. has dedicated his life to the field of thanatology through his extensive research on the topics of death, grief, loss, and suicide intervention.

Dr. Neimeyer is a professor and director of psychotherapy research in the Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis, where he also maintains an active clinical practice.  Additionally, he is the editor of two respected international journals, Death Studies and the Journal of Constructivist Psychology. He has published 24 books and over 300 articles and book chapters.  The Art of Longing, a book of contemporary poetry is his latest creative endeavor.

This interview is the first segment in a two part interview.  In this introduction, Dr. Neimeyer portrays how grief rocks the foundation of our world and how through a newer model of grief therapy called “Meaning Reconstruction”, we can explore and integrate our loss into our life.  Meaning Reconstruction is a process of healing grief through the telling and re-telling of our life stories; seeking new meanings to re-affirm and re-build our life in a world without our loved one.  Dr. Neimeyer is advancing this model of grief in his research, counseling practice and life’s work.

In the second segment of the interview Dr. Neimeyer explains a deeper understanding of meaning reconstruction grief theory and shares more of his personal and professional insights.  The second segment concludes with a reading of  his poem entitled,  The Art of Longing.

Thank you Dr. Neimeyer for your untiring dedication to the field of thanatology……. a wonderful example of creating healthy conversations about death and dying to inspire life and living!

Personal Thanatology of Michael Liebman

This is the first part of a two part series interviewing Michael Liebman.  Thank you Michael for sharing your personal thanatology by sharing some of your personal thoughts and experiences with death and dying & life and living.   Your honesty and sincerity are palpable.  I really enjoyed your concept of life being a dynamic, creative process.  The second part of Michael’s interview will be posted at a later date.  In it, he shares his experience of attending a Living Life Dying Death Gathering.

Personal Thanatology

Thanatology

than · a · tol · o · gy                    [than-uh-tol-uh-jee]

n. the study of death and dying


Personal Thanatology

Reflect · Share · Live

v.   the lifelong discovery process where you (1) reflect on and explore your personal experiences, thoughts, memories, beliefs, stories and questions about death and dying; (2) share your ideas and stories with family, friends and acquaintances; then (3) live life based in what you value and brings you meaning ~ live your Philosophy of Life.


My goal in introducing this concept is to encourage people of all ages to be more comfortable with conversations about death and dying to inspire living well and dying well.