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.