Memento Mori Goes Death Positive

Western culture has become too squeamish about talking about death, and that hurts us. That’s changing! That’s what being Death Positive is all about.

We’re now living in an era of death doulas (yes, that’s a thing) to death retreats. The death reminder app WeCroak sends out texts like “Remember, you’re going to die!” based on Buddhist beliefs that to be a truly happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily.

It’s not to be creepy, rather it’s in the vein of the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – it’s to remember to care about the things that actually matter!

We are now less willing to be shamed for our interests in difficult topics. Look where being financially illiterate got older generations. We know not talking about money put us in tricky financial positions. And we know not talking about death can lead to a self-unaware life.

Talking about death and coming to grips with our own mortality is how we take control over death. To think about it and plan for it and try to make it your own. Instead of who will get what, the convo is more about, how can we have our affairs in order — emotionally, spiritually, relationship-wise — so we can enjoy our life now. 

What Does “Death Positive” Mean?

To be Death Positive is an attitude accepting death as a natural part of life (death and taxes inevitable parts of life!) instead of treating it as taboo or something awkward to be hidden.

This might include blunt conversations on the process of dying, options for burial or cremation and funerals (or fun-erals) and celebrations of life, end of life planning including your will and all the adulting things.

Talking about death should be normal and it’s healthy. North America has simply been one of the most death illiterate communities in the world. And that’s hurting us.

What Death Positivity is Not

Being Death Positive does not involve glorifying or trivializing death. It does not mean you consider death a happy thing. Just that you make it not creepy and less scary.

Memento Mori Movement

At the core of Death Positivity is Memento Mori” which translated from Latin means: ‘Remember death’

The ancient practice to put death into perspective. In Roman 200 BC when a victorious general paraded through town a servant would ride shot gun and to keep the general humble whisper in his ear: ‘Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!’ which means ‘Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember death!’

This concept is part of the foundation and namesake of 21 Grammori selling death reminders, urns and containers with a twist: To buy your own urn or gift it before a death. Keep it in a focal spot to spark healthy convos about death and remind you to embrace life. 

What are Death Positive Perks?

There are many, many positives that can come from death convos. These are just a few! Talking openly and mindfully about death helps you to: 

• Find Your Purpose!!!! It helps you care about the things that really matter and clear the noise to focus on what would truly make you happy. It reminds you that life is finite so get off the couch and do something with it.
    Environmentally Conscious Choices – there are all kinds of new and emerging options. For example, water-based Aquamation (otherwise known as alkaline hydrolysis) is now becoming legal in more places. At the time of writing it is legal in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and nearly two dozen American states. 
      • Smarter Financial Decisions – there are a ton of options available which will help you leave this world in a more affordable and environmentally-friendly way. Like buying your own urn instead of whatever expensive options the funeral home offers. Too often people end up throwing money at a funeral because when they’re in the midst of grieving they’re too emotional to question costs.
        • Personalize Death - customization trends range from customizable lip palettes to data-designed furnishings. So why shouldn’t your death be tailored to your personality and incorporate rituals and ceremony that have meaning to you – but might break tradition. 
          • Grieve Better - It removes barriers around a healthier grief and gives you access to new forms of support networks from death doulas to grief retreats or Clubhouse audio rooms. It changes the rules to make it “ok” to grieve however the heck you want to!

            • Fears & Anxieties Decrease - A positive attitude on mortality liberates you from anxiety around your own death so you can make the most of life. Planning or talking about your death means you won’t worry about it as much. Plus, planning won’t cause your family additional stress when you die.

            Get Your Affairs in Order!

            Do you have a will? What do you want for end of life? If cremation – what kind of urn?  

            Have you ever stopped to think about how unfair to your executor or family it is to say "I don’t care about my funeral. They can do whatever – I’m easy." You think you're being low maintenance, but more often than not this creates an extra burden on your love ones.

            It’s highly unlikely they won't be torn on: would Billy have liked the blue urn or the black one? Wood or the water scattering. Ugh! They’re small, but uber stressful (emotionally charged) decisions to do right by the person who's died.

            Talk Death to Me

            Many people arrive at death having never made their views, wishes, and preferences known.

            So they wind up dying in a manner they wouldn't have chosen, maybe a cold hospital room instead of home surrounded by their loved ones. Do you know 75% of people would like to die at home but only 25% actually do.

            This often leaves their beloved family and friends feeling guilty and uncertain, with the vague feeling that things should have been done (could have be done) different.

            The trouble is that talking about their end-of-life wishes beforehand is hard to do if it’s taboo. Here are some of the things changing that!

            Death Cafes

            Death Cafes are local meetups gathering people (who might otherwise never have met) drink coffee, eat cake and in a chill manner - talk about death and dying. The discussions have no leaders, are free or inexpensive, and are open to talk of all things death but are not support groups.

            They began in 2011 in East London and now globally they’re in 56 countries and almost every major city and many towns. Surprised? Check out if there’s a local Death Café in your hood.

            Jo[URN]ey Urn Gifts

            We all know those impossible to shop for people...because they already have everything. Yeh, yeh, but do they have a Jo[URN]ey Urn?  As a contender for 'most original gift' idea ever it gives the gift recipient their own urn. Doesn't matter if they're old, young, ill or vibrantly healthy. The digital certificate also includes education on what death positive is, how showing off their urn will spark death positive convos, plus how to turn your urn into a 'bucket list' maker - all the things they want to do before they kick the bucket. 

            The Conversation Project

            Nearly a million people have downloaded the starter kit for the Conversation Project, a guide to discussing plans for the end of life. Download their free conversation starter kits to will help you begin the conversation about death for yourself, friends and family.

            The Death Deck

            With a playful tone and a sense of humor, The Death Deck is both a party game and tool that allows friends and family members to open up and share thoughts about life and death. It’s a surprisingly fun (no really) and memorable way to gently get past taboo. Cards prompt questions like: a loved one suggest jewellery be made with their cremated remains – would you wear it? 

            Death Doulas

            Birth doulas help us start life so wouldn’t it make sense for a death doula to help with the end of life? End-of-life doulas provide support, encouragement, and help to the dying and their families as the dying person leaves the world. They emphasize the importance of talking and thinking through death and the process of dying. This involves respecting the dying individual’s wishes first and foremost, but providing options and guidance as they consider where and how they die, who should be there. Where to find a doula:

            End of Life Doula Association of Canada

            Death Doula Association of Ontario  

            International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) directory

            National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) directory

            Final Thoughts

            This idea that death is exotic and cannot be seen is brand new. Generations ago tended to die in the house. Even in the early 1900’s tended to be laid out in the parlor when they died.

            Weird Fact: the Ladies’ Home Journal advocated changing the 'parlor room' to the ‘living room’ when the funeral parlor came around. The living room became the living room because it’s no longer the parlor for laying out the dead.

            For the last few decades we instead think of death as something that happens offstage that we don’t see. Death Positive is changing that!

            Today, the death positive movement is a new appreciation of how conversations around mortality help us better appreciate life, grieve better, and find our purpose -  how to make death more positive.