Death, the untamed caged pink elephant in the corner of the back of our minds, has become a taboo topic particularly in the African American community. Left undisturbed, thoughts of death and mortality sit and wait to be roused by events and circumstances that force us to open the cage and ignorantly face our deepest fears. As a result, death runs rampant in our minds, our lives, our families, and our community.
All of us at some point in our lives have or will experience the loss of a loved one. We even accept that our own deaths are inevitable. Very few people would voluntarily take on the responsibilities of mourning and making arrangements for someone that they love with little-to-no opportunity to prepare emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, or financially. Even fewer would purposely bestow this burden on the ones they love. This is partially because preparing for “the death experience” is not considered a need this has unconsciously become the norm of our culture. Consequently, our lack of consideration and conversation has taught us to respond to death as opposed to being proactive and ready for it.
We are given the choice to be prepared for death. By simply having conversations with our loved ones and families discussing our final needs and wishes, we empower ourselves to dimly light the paths through the valley of the shadow of death. Silence about this matter has led to the misconception that preparing for final funeral and burial needs involves a long-drawn out process and large amounts of money. The truth is that there are many steps that can be taken that cost nothing more than your time and effort. Here are three of them below:
1. Get the Conversation Started – The absence of conversations about preparing for death and dying, in my experience, is the result of a combination of three key factors; emotion, fear, and/or ignorance. No one wants to think or talk about losing their loved ones. To lighten the tone of this crucial conversation with your family, creating a relaxed atmosphere where the discussion can flow naturally is essential. One way to stimulate interest and make the experience memorable is by reviewing photos, reminiscing on good times, and enjoying each other’s company. Keeping paper and pen handy provides a chance to jot down important details that will arise while listening attentively as others express their thoughts and feelings when discussing loved ones who have passed on.
2. Break the Barrier of Emotion and Fear – Funeral homes and cemeteries are sources of anxiety, strong emotions, and fear for many people. Calling a funeral home or casually speaking with funeral service professionals while attending services is a great way to build relationships. This is also a great way to ask questions and gain valuable information without being pressured to make purchases or feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
3. Break the Barrier of Ignorance – In this digital age, the internet serves as one of our greatest resources. By simply typing “help with preplanning” into Google’s search bar, numerous websites that are designed to educate you and your family about the benefits, products, and services available for final disposition are made available. The best part is that this free information is accessible from the comfort and convenience of your home.
What are your questions? What do you need to know? How can we get this conversation started in our community?
Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our contact page.