A cycle of denial and fear

Charles 3 Comments


We’ve extracted this from a Q and A with mortician Caitin Doughty in the Los Angeles Times. Some brilliantly expressed insights here, we’re sure you’ll agree. 


Do people see death differently in other parts of the world? How — and how does that change the way they respond to death?

Some cultures are terrified of corpses being dangerous and filled with bad spirits, so only designated “unclean” people handle them. Other cultures see the corpse as something to be intimately interacted with and practice something called secondary burial, where the corpse is cleaned and prepared by the family over a manner of months as it decomposes.

Americans fall somewhere in the middle. There is almost an apathy about it. We don’t think the corpse is going to attack us with bad spirits, but at the same time we don’t want anything to do with it if we can pay a professional to handle it instead.

How else would you characterize the American way of dealing with death? 

American death is a cycle of denial and fear. If you’re not exposed to the realities of death and dead bodies, death becomes something not entirely real to you. Of course, we naturally fear what we don’t understand and what’s hidden from us. But the more we fear it, the less likely we are to face it head on. So the cycle just keeps going until someone we love dies and we’re entirely unprepared.


Find Caitlin Doughty’s blog at The Order of the Good Death here


Article in the LA Times here.

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12 years ago

It may seem a glib comment, rather obvious etc; but I can’t help making a connection between this ‘cycle of denial and fear’ and the disgusting American practice of disfiguring corpses to make them look like living, sleeping people.

Accept the death, accept the dead, that’s my motto.

james showers
12 years ago

I adore this delicious and very funny woman. Thank you for featuring her again.

Charles Cowling
12 years ago

James, I’m so pleased to discover another fan. She’s something special, I think, too.