We live until we die, and then what? April 9, 2016

Most blog authors are not only unashamedly subjective, but incredibly indulgent with regard to their opinions about their interests, passions, or values, and I’m no different, as any reader of these monthly blogs would agree.  I often wonder when writing them, whether I’m simply grappling with finding my own sense of the meaning of life, and utilising a blog-space to do so, or whether each blog entry offers something to the current death, dying and end-of-life discourse and literature.  Perhaps it’s a mixture of both.

We all have different ways of seeing the world, and determining and understanding our place within the world.  That seeing and understanding arises in response to a myriad of familial, social, cultural, spiritual, geographic and economic influences, all interweaving and impacting upon us at different times in our lives.  Our ‘lens’ through which we look to see the world (a metaphor for our attitudes, values and beliefs), is accordingly shaped in response, constructing a kind of psychospiritual and psychosocial paradigm which frames, governs and directs, ultimately, how we choose to live our lives.

Paradigms change.  They change because the ideas, beliefs, thoughts and actions of the people that construct them change.   According to The Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies (http://www.scenariomagazine.com/a-new-death-paradigm/), as a result of the growing movement of Death Doulas, networks of Death Cafes, and the use of social media platforms as expressions of mourning and loss, we’re not only creating our own emotional support system around dying, but redesigning death in a DIY manner.

There is no doubt that increasing social awareness of death and dying, in particular for ‘dying well’ and on the individual’s terms, evidences a movement away from an overtly medicalised environment for the dying, and generally speaking, our end-of-life.  The upsurge in death literacy in recent times (see Noonan et al, 2016, Developing death literacy, Progress in Palliative Care, 24:1, 31-35), such as for example, the global campaign for physician assisted dying, testifies to the fact that people want more say in how, when and where they die.

Death, the final transition, is the doorway through which we all pass.  It is the inevitable end to our physical birth as embodied beings.  Well, that’s how I contextualise it, that’s my paradigm.  But what about our life after death?  What is the paradigm for that?  Religion and spirituality provide many paradigms in answer to this question, as do non-ordinary phenomena such as near-death experiences, death-bed visions, out-of-body experiences and mediumship.  These demonstrate that we are more than our physical selves, that in addition to bone and flesh, we are something else that exists and eventually lives beyond the time when that bone and flesh can no loner sustain us.

We live until we die, and then what?  That is the burning question.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

Comments are closed.