Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Death no longer taboo?


Participated in an interesting discussion today about death rituals and customs. The seminar was presented by a palliative care doctor, from a very out of date Roman Catholic position. I think he was trying to maintain that death has gone from being visible in community to being invisible, very much a private affair. And he seemed to suggest that where death does become public as, for instance, in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales that the mourning and the rituals surrounding it have become sentimental. I wanted to suggest that he look at the coverage of the last Pope's funeral to see that that is not the case but that what we are witnessing is the liberation of emotions where folk are free to express grief and participate in mourning rituals. Our experience in this community over the last few weeks bears that out. It wasn't thick, sugary sentiment that led teenagers to congregating on street corners shedding tears. Or to posting tributes on a web site set up to honour their school friend. This was a healthy display of grief and of participating in the tasks of mourning rather than burying their grief deep inside and not being allowed or enabled to confront it. I see this as a healthy state of affairs from whatever religious or denominational stance or, indeed non religious stance one comes. Supporting one another through joys and sorrows is a healthy sign of any community.

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