Dying, Death and all subjects, fact, myth, fiction, You name it! associated with the Grim Reaper have at the same time been terrifying, plaguing, and obsessing human beings since Day One. Now we at Compassionate Care Associates and Chaplain p.r.n. are planning to organize our first Thanatology Café event in the Albany, New York, area for mid-January 2016.
Thanatology is the scientific study of death. It investigates the mechanisms and physical aspects of death, such as bodily changes that accompany the dying process, actual physical death and the post-mortem period, as well as wider psychological, cultural, social, and spiritual aspects related to death, including the study of the needs of the terminally ill and their families.
Dying, death, and grief are fundamental and significant aspects of the human experience. Anyone who has had the privilege of accompanying a loved one — or anyone, for that matter — through the dying process knows that numerous professional roles intersect with the complex and sensitive domains of acknowledging death, witnessing and accompanying dying, cultural aspects of dying, death, and post-mortem rites, rituals, ceremonies, but few of us receive specific education or an opportunity to explore this aspect of life, to allow one to effectively address and communicate about these issues. Some of us have received advanced education and continuing education and training and practical training in dying, death, grief and mourning, and can enhance the public’s comfort level, competence, and confidence in personal, interpersonal, spiritual and professional contexts. The overall goal of this unique opportunity to meet and share about death, dying, grief and mourning, the academic field of thanatology, is to restore our culture’s intimacy and comfort with the dying, the dead, the care of those who are actively experiencing death and bereavement. We’d like to offer persons who would like to know more about this fascinating subject that has been the subject of fear, anxiety, taboo, and denial, with the goal of facilitating the necessary steps aimed at easing the stress, confusion, and vulnerability that most persons experience when confronted with the death of a loved one and what necessarily follows. In addition, we’d like to offer a forum, where persons with a serious interest in thanatology can find opportunities for expert discussion, and which will become a source of guidance for education and training in this fascinating field.
In the coming month, we’ll be planning the program for Thanatology Café, and we hope to put together a number of formal presentations that will be followed by informal discussion and sharing in smaller groups or even one-on-on. We’ll be inviting local mortuary service providers who will be able to share their knowledge, expertise, and tips on how to pre-plan and negotiate pre-arrangements, how to navigate the sometimes daunting waters of last-minute funeral arranging, and managing the costs involved.
We’ll also be exploring the history of death and disposal of mortal remains, including aspects of embalming, waking, burial, , cremation, and newer trends such as the not-so-new so-called “green burial”, body alkaline hydrolysis [a.k.a. resomation, “liquid cremation” or dissolving the dead body], composting, and some of the more bizarre notions of the final disposition of the deceased.
We’ll also offer opportunities for exploring the spirituality of dying, death and bereavement, and how important spirituality is in meaning-making in the face of death and bereavement. Believe it or not, you may not belong to a church or consider yourself “practicing” or religious but even an atheist is spiritual. You will need spiritual support and only an experienced bereavement chaplain can provide that. If your funeral home does not have a chaplain, run away — fast.
For better or for worse, technology has transformed how people grieve and mourn, and memorialize our dead. So, oOf course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer something about technological advances in grieving and mourning, both the blessings and the curses. We’ll be discussing social media and the pitfalls and advantages of streaming, Facebook, Twitter, online obituaries, online books (for example, Legacy).
And finally, we hope to persuade you that your independent — as opposed to the cut-rate factory body disposal specialists posing as funeral homes, a.k.a. factory funeral homes — is there to answer your questions and to guide you through some of the most difficult moments in life with integrity, compassion and dignity. There are questions you can and should ask, and questions your “family”funeral home director and staff — and you should have a family funeral home — (not necessarily the one that has been burying relatives for decades; shop around!) want to ask and to answer. (You may want to start of with Ask a Mortician Anything.)
If you’d be interested in joining us at Thanatology Café, and would like to receive more detailed information on the locales and the program, please drop us a couple of lines telling us about your interest, who you are, why you are interested, and what you’d like to see on the discussion program. You can send your confidential e-mail to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment using the comment feature below. Your e-mails will be kept confidential but your comments, if appropriate, will be published for our readers to view.
Thanatology Café will be facilitated by a professional bereavement chaplain, who will be pleased to respond to your personal questions in confidence, or to guide you through the thanatology process. You can contact a Chaplain p.r.n. at any time at email@example.com. If you wish your inquiries to be kept confidential and private, please let us know in your correspondence or e-mail.
Who knows? Perhaps you may want to earn a certificate in thanatology with the NCDE (National Center for Death Education, Mount Ida College, Newton, MA) or with the ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling), or you may want to work in a funeral home as a funeral service associate or even a funeral planner.
We’ll be looking forward to hearing from you and to welcoming you at our inaugural Thanatology Café event.