I could easily die sooner than later. My mortality was, vir die eerste keer, in center focus.
Covid brought death into sharper focus
For many, Covid-19 was the rude awakening that death was not a long-distance relationship so much as a close neighbor.
“We are in a moment that, as tragic and horrific as it is, is one of a few moments in American history where we are confronted with mass amounts of death and forced to reflect on our own mortality,” said Gary Landerman, a professor of American religious history and cultures at Emory University, who teaches a popular class on death and dying.
, who recently published
“Don’t Think About Death: A Memoir on Mortality
,” has seen a tangible uptick in interest in his class since the pandemic hit
, met meer as 300 students enrolled
Covid-19 has also created a “younger generation with awareness of mortality,” Landerman said. “It is profound and deep and really stirring at some existential core that isn’t usual at that age.”
Many younger and generally healthy people I know did not give serious thought to our own sense of mortality — until Covid-19 hit. The pandemic has brought into starker focus the fact that that a full and long life is not necessarily a guaranteed thing.
Not everyone grasps their own mortality
Not everyone has advantaged the pandemic to grapple with the realities of death and dying, wel.
“As a death doula, I was hopeful that Covid would make death a more approachable topic. I wouldn’t say that things have changed as much as I had hoped. In some ways we just run further and further, faster and faster from it,” said Jane Whitlock, a Minneapolis-based end-of-life doula who works with people who are dying and their families.
Whitlock has observed more people filling out advance directive medical forms, which spell out a person’s wishes on whether doctors should try to resuscitate or keep a person alive if they’re near death.
Steeds, she has been dismayed by the lack of evolution in the discussion about mortality or end-of-life planning in all age groups and the attitude she’s observed from people who think they can “hold my breath and make it to the end of this and then my life will be normal again,” sy het gese.
“Anyone who has ever had an experience with grief knows there is no going back,” Whitlock said. “That normal is gone.”
Accepting death as a part of life
Landerman says that death has always been around us, in cultural references, movies and songs, but that Covid-19 has made the inevitable rite of passage “confrontational.”
How will the pandemic impact our long-term understanding of mortality? Will new generations have a closer relationship with death?
“Even with those historic precedents, it’s hard to get a full grasp of how this is going to impact us,” said Landerman. “We’re so in it, that it’s hard to see ahead and imagine,” hy het gesê.
Steeds, there are ways to practice inviting death into your consciousness as a mundane part of life. You can start by incorporating a “death ritual” into your daily routine, says Whitlock.
Start your day with a mantra that acknowledges your own mortality, sy het gese, or download an app like We Croak, which sounds an alarm several times a day to remind you that you will one day die. You could collect obituaries of friends and family, or interesting people you admire.
One potentially less despair-invoking activity could be to “take a trip through the neighborhood and think of all the people who used to live there a hundred years ago and realize how you too are not a permanent fixture of this place,” Whitlock said.
Other cultures honor death differently
It also helps to understand that other cultures accept and honor death in very different ways. Buddhism, byvoorbeeld, talks about the impermanence of life and the cycles of death and rebirth as one of its main tenets.
“There is no doubt that the global pandemic has impacted every single person on this planet in some way, vorm of vorm. It is a tragedy that will remain in our minds and hearts for generations to come, and our ways of relating to one another will in some ways be forever altered,” said the Brooklyn, New York-based iele paloumpis, who works as an end-of-life doula.
In order to shift our understanding of death and dying, we might start by talking to our loved ones about their wishes for end-of-life plans, said paloumpis. “It can be a really meaningful gift to clearly understand those innermost needs and desires in our final days and hours, so talk to your loved ones, fill out your advance directives, and uplift the things that are most important to you,” hulle het gesê.
Jenna Lasky, a 20-year-old college student from Georgia, says Covid-19 has impacted her own sense of mortality, but she also maintains agency over how she processes those feelings.
“Pandemic or not, I will still lie awake each night with the persistent and unpleasant thoughts of my certain death, but I will choose not to smother this existential dread or anxiety. In plaas daarvan, I want to explore it, befriend it. I have learned that the only way to conquer the darkness is to venture through it,” sy het gese.
Regardless of what the future brings or how long we have the privilege of breathing air on this Earth, if this newfound existential dread has taught me anything, it’s that having a strong sense of mortality and accepting that I one day will die, maybe even sooner than later, will help me live better, vandag. Don’t let the grip of the grim reaper ruin a perfectly good day to enjoy the full life that you have now.