In the realm of end-of-life education, two terms come up very often: death denial and fear of death. We talk about fear of death and death denial as kind-of the same thing and we use the terms interchangeably. But are they really? I’m wondering if the varying ways that people think about and respond to the coronavirus pandemic, shed some light on the differences between the two terms.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how the Coronavirus informs my experience of making sense of life and death. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
While we’re in denial about our own mortality, we’re obsessed with stories about death and dying.
The way COVID-19 is affecting us varies from region to region but what’s common around the world is how much it’s being talked about in the formal and informal news. Even though I don’t feel like I’m personally in danger (could that be my death denial showing up?) I cling to the news eager to learn the latest case counts and fatality figures.
In a previous blog post titled, What’s Love Got to Do With It, I wrote how author bell hooks believes that “our cultural obsession with death consumes energy that could be given to the art of loving.” She explains, “It is far easier to talk about loss than it is to talk about love. It is easier to articulate the pain of love’s absence than to describe its presence and meaning in our lives.” Is our obsession with the Coronavirus story a symptom of our global hunger for love and connection?
Things may never be the same. What will we lose and what will we gain?
I’ve never been witness to this kind of global disruption happening on such a mass and seemingly random scale. While I believe we’ll get back to a new normal, it’s the long-terms implications I wonder about.
In an age when we’re discouraging people from overusing their electronic devices, especially as a means for social engagement, we’re suddenly warning people not to get too close to each other, not to hug, touch, or even gather! Will this lead to a new and permanent barrier to human connection?
And on the other hand, we’re burning far less greenhouse gas due to the sharp decrease in air and other travel. The numbers are astonishing! What an unanticipated way to get such quick results! Perhaps this public-health crisis will serve as a wake-up call for us to think twice about flitting around our communities and the world in fossil-fuel-burning vehicles.
Let’s prepare our hearts and spirits for the unexpected.
When we least expect it—whether it’s death, the threat of loss, or just change—there it is. Life is unpredictable and precarious. So how can you be prepared for the unexpected? You can start by doing some personal inquiry and self reflection on this human journey of life and death. Willow’s tools provide the framework for discovering who and what matter most, your values and your beliefs, and how to make choices that will matter in the end, and light you up now.
What about you?
How are you making sense of life, death, and COVID-19?