Is death a taboo subject?

Coffin decoratingIs death a taboo subject?

Taboo or not taboo… that is the question.

Death certainly has been a taboo, but like our attitudes to sex, faith and authority, things are changing.

Every day, in small ways, Final Fling and others in the movement are challenging death as a taboo subject.

We and many others are active in the death movement, are working hard and collaborating to tackle the taboo, get some air into this subject and ultimately improve our experiences of death, dying, grief and bereavement.

We’re tackling the taboo daily. Part of this is by talking about death – in social media, in the media, to our neighbours. Part of it is our spirited and open approach. Part of it is organising events. We ran Scotland’s first Death Cafes – part of another global movement – to get death out of the shadows and into the community… ordinary folks in public halls and cafes having ordinary and extraordinary conversations.

Part of it is sharing ideas and tips about how we approach death, talk about death, support someone else’s death, manage ourselves around death, how we deal with loss and grief. We want our society to be more open to death and to talking about dying.

We produce information, run and promote events and provide resources to help engage. We ran a Design for Death symposium for professionals with Snook. We ran Scotland’s first Day of the Dead Festival.

We’re determined that up ahead, we’ll banish death as a taboo subject.

5 reasons we think the taboo is dying:

1) the taboo itself is dying as society progresses thinking: like other old taboos mentioned above – sex, politics, challenging authority.

2) death is hidden not forbidden: we just don’t see it much to comment; it’s not that we’re afraid to.

3) the taboo is mostly in the medical world (where death may be considered a medical failure). Even the media are more open now. See news from July 2015 article about changing attitudes covering Final Fling and others in the Telegraph.

4) we don’t always notice it’s being talked about, we use so much euphemism: ‘lost’, ‘passed on’ – not ‘dead’.

5) in reality, we don’t talk about life any more than we talk about death. We’re not that good at facing human frailty generally.

Death as a taboo : Final Fling survey

We asked why people signed up for Final Fling account as a measure of attitudes to death.

Most want to be part of the Final Fling community. Sorting legal and financial affairs and recording funeral wishes are main motivators. Most are doing it for themselves rather than for another. More are interested in making an Advance Decision than a Will. media2We were interested to see if people are progressing as they’d planned. 6 out of 10 had to admit that they hadn’t done nearly as much as they’d hoped. Some hadn’t achieved any of their goals. As one user said: “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Lack of urgency seems to be the biggest hurdle – always something else more pressing to do – manana. Lack of time and lack of clarity about our decisions get in our way too. Great news though. Not a single person said they found it a tricky subject. So much for the taboo. One user suggested that we could help with more bite-sized steps. We’ll be thinking about that for the coming year. We wondered who our users are. We imagine we’re speaking to 45-65 year old women in the main. Of the hundreds of users targetted for this survey, 7 out of 10 came from that group. Here’s what some of them said about Final Fling:

Thanks a lot for your fantastic website. It was a great discovery for me. Amazing work. Cheers from Galicia.Love the site. It’s fun and informative. I must recommend it to all my friends.I think your site is excellent. It’s all in the attitude!Brilliant initiative. Openness about death and dying is so important. Thanks.It’s fab. I tell everyone about it who will listen!Great idea and on my list of things to do.You are doing something so awesome. I think it will take time to get through to people – their problem, not yours – but you will get there and it’s SO worth it.Love its positivity. Well done, B!