GET REAL | MY EXPERIENCE WITH DEATH + ANXIETY DISORDER + THE #DEATHPOSITIVE MOVEMENT

Let’s get real for a moment. You might have noticed, whether it was from the way I dress or my collection of oddities, I have a little bit of an obsession with death. While this hasn’t always been a positive trait, I’ve come to appreciate and respect it. It turns out I’m not the only one, as Order of the Good Death’s #deathpositive movement has really opened the door to other like minded people, along with the Goth community that also has a tendency for the gloomy and taboo.

Thanatophobia (the fear of death)

Firstly and foremost, I have an anxiety disorder. This disorder has been a prominent part of my life for at least four years (although I was only officially diagnosed with it last year). This disorder harbors majorly around my inexplicable fear of death.

Now, you may be thinking: dear Sarah, everyone’s scared of death. That’s a normal thing!

But alas, it’s not a normal thing when you’re literally having panic attacks on public transport because for some reason the chemicals in your fight or flight response has tricked you into thinking that you’re about to die.

#Deathpositive

It wasn’t until I found the #deathpositive movement that real change started to happen. Therapy was good for understanding the science behind a panic attack and being able to see the patterns forming in order to work at preventing them early. But the death positive movement or mindset helped me manage my unresolved feelings about death.

The death positive movement as the Order of the Good Death’s Death Positive pledge insists is all about facing death by examining out cultural death practice along-side historical death practices. It insists that by bringing death to the forefront of our culture we’ll develop an acceptance of death that we don’t currently have due to the way we socially hide death behind closed doors and underground.

 

How Can I be #deathpositive?

Start appreciating more horror movies! Some may call it desensitising but I call it appreciation of the representation of death as an art form.

The history of death is long and super interesting. Just check out the Ask a Mortician YouTube channel, who’s Order of the New Death #Deathpositive pledge inspired this post.

Speaking of art and history, lots of early art and literature has a lot of talk about death and life in it! While I can’t suggest any artists, I would suggest Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles or if you’re not into longer fiction Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories are a great option. Gothic fiction was a genre obsessed with death.

As mentioned earlier in this post, speak to your local Goths and the darkly inclined. This past semester my friends, Suze, Caitie and I, decided to do a project – a discussion panel – entirely on the topic of death in literature and it was great! It was a great way to speak to like minded people who also want to address their feelings, and the presentation was a great way to spread the word that death is an important topic to be addressed (okay, we don’t need to tell a room full of writers that).

So, the only logically action to take now is to ask you your opinion. Have you addressed your impending doom feelings about death? Sometimes people tell me that they are entirely comfortable with the idea that they will one day expire, and to those people I say, what is your secret?

 

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9 Comments

  1. I'm so happy to see someone else talking about the #deathpositive movement! I recently finished reading Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and it really changed my perspective about death and led me to the movement. Having struggled with GAD and panic disorders my whole life, death often preoccupied me in an unhealthy way. I'd get fixated on it and it would inevitably lead to a panic attack. I started making peace with death by researching, creating art, and appreciating it. And therapy helped as well.

    In addition to what you've written here, I'd also suggest seeking out contemporary artists who create with death as inspiration. From the photography world Brooke Shaden and Kyle Thompson are two that come to mind.

    Thanks for talking about the Death Positive movement and anxiety 🙂 Death and mental health are two subjects that need as much open, honest communication as possible!

  2. Death is painful because it's against human nature, you don't know when it will happen and it takes away your loved ones. You talk about movies, books and art that appreciate death. I don't get why people appreciate it, death is terrible.

    The secret of not being afraid of death lies into accepting that it is inevitable, and believing it's just temporary. My grandparents have accepted they will die one day, they have some clothes for their funeral ready, photos and some money set aside for it. When I was a kid I didn't know people die at any time, I thought it happens when they grow old, that's why I was unprepared for it and shocked when my father died. We should talk about it, we should bring our kids to funerals and be prepared in case it happens.

  3. That´s a very interesting post, I also thought about the negative and positive sides of death in the last times while hearing David Bowies last record. I think death can also be an adventure. The problem is, that you have to go alone and no one can tell you, what will happen. Anne Rice is a good choice 🙂

  4. I love Doughty´s book, I´ve discovered so many historical facts through it and her tenderness and understanding really touched me. I suppose I am afraid of death just like anybody else, and romanticized on it as a young goth too many times. I always loved the theme, talking about it, thinking about it, it´s simply human.

  5. This post made me really think about my own relationship with death. I don't personally fear death or feel any anxiaty when I think about my own future death… I do fear the death of my loved ones though, rather a lot. I try to live in the now though, not think about tomorrow or the days after that very much. Any anxieties in the now I combat with logic and probability. The probability that my loved ones are going to die today of all days is rather low. I'm lucky in that my emotions are ruled by my logic most of the time. This living in the now makes it a bit difficult to plan for the future or get any big projects done, but I am much happier for it so I'll just accept the limitations.

    I had never heard about the deathpositive movement but it makes a lot of sense to me. I have always been fond of aesthetics that embrace death and the darker aspects of life. I enjoy well crafted horror, zombies, the macabre, memento mori, mummies, other preserved bodies… I also think that it is very important to remeber death. We aren't often confronted with death nowadays, it isn't as natural as a part of our everyday life as it used to be. We don't see the killing and slaughter of animals, we don't usually see the bodies of our deceased relatives… I think that's a bad thing because it distances us from death. I guess that is the viewpoint of the deathpositive movement too?

    I try to remember death every time I dress myself, every time I eat, every time I drive past the graveyard… For me life is not complete without a bit of death. By that I mean that I feel like life is so much more colorful when contrasted with death. It's there in the way I dress too. No outfit is complete without a bit of death, a hint of macabre. I wear fur and leather a lot because these materials are by definition macabre, animals had to die for me to wear them. I remember the deaths of those animals every time I wear these items. If I were to put a lable on my personal aesthetic it would be "floral macabre". A combination of life and death, fecundity and decay… an obsession with the circle of life. Everything that dies brings new life in some way, that's the natural order of things. And I find that natural order to be rather comforting in a way…

  6. Until reading this post, I'd not heard of the Death Positive movement, so thank you! I really love the Ask a Mortician YouTube channel, and I think death–both the biological processes and the topic of dealing with it–aren't discussed as much as they should be.

  7. i love death. if you have more interest check out egyptian book of dead and tibetan book of dead. the tibetans are obsesses with death, read up on the bardo and phowa practices if you are interested in how other cultures deal with death and their philosophy of it. i think its a trip how the tibetans believe that the process or journey of death is just as important as life itself.

  8. I was so extremely obsessed with death growing up, that I somehow believe I attracted the my mother's death (by law of attraction). I'm getting NLP therapy for various fears now.

  9. I definitely think that my ability to both see the beauty/ needfulness of death and having a dark sense of humour is all that keeps me going sometimes. Gothic stuff definitely keeps me sane!

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