Death Positivity, the Primer


A couple of times now in this space, I’ve mentioned Death Positivity and being death positive.   If it’s new or confusing to you, there’s no wonder–it’s a fairly new concept, although one could argue that some people have been death positive as long as there have been people, and that our pre-20th century world was, by default, much more in touch with the reality of death .  But in our 21st century, this physical and digital adventure, what does it really mean for you–and does it really matter?




Being death positive simply means you’re aware of and open to mortality–yours and others–and that you’re choosing to live without the shields that modern society (artful dodger of reality, innovator of euphemisms like slumber rooms and dearly departed and passed away) puts around death.   Death positivity takes a realist’s view of death, one that understands that death will happen to each and every one of us, and uses that leverage to increase comfort and acceptance within that familiarity.   It demands that, rather than ignoring and avoiding the topic, we embrace, plan for, and even celebrate it as a part of life.

The death positivity movement has several stand-out champions, along with legions of behind-the-scenes actors, folks making a difference in their own way in their own corner of the world.  Many who work in hospice and palliative care naturally embrace death positivity, because their work naturally demands open acknowledgment of the universality and imminence of death.   A great many folks carrying the death positivity flag are funeral directors (although some still labor mightily to maintain the euphemism and we-don’t-talk-about-it-ness of death in their slumber rooms.)   There is a nice subfield of academics who also publish and research on death topics who stand out for death positivity , as well as a phalanx of other related professionals (planners like me, artists who create or collect memento mori and/or death related products, cemetery afficionados, and the like) .


Curious?  Want to learn more about being Death Positive?

Start here:

More into Videos?

Caitlin Doughty  (funeral director/author/Death Positive Movement leader) does a witty and engaging video series called Ask a Mortician.    Her blunt, factual style is blended with a heavy dose of humor, perfect for busting open taboo topics and making it okay to find them SUPER interesting!    If you appreciate her style, you might also enjoy her book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

Other Ways to Explore Death Positivity

  • Death Salon is a semi-regular gathering of academics and other death positive folks, who come together in part celebration, part family reunion, part learning opportunity.  I had the chance to attend Death Salon in Philadelphia in 2015, and found the energy of talking openly all death, all the time to be incredible.   Death Salon’s next endeavor is a film festival in September 2016 in Houston–if you’re a film buff, check it out!


  • Death Cafe is an open discussion salon that has spread across the world; most major cities (and many smaller towns) have regularly scheduled death cafes.   The idea of death cafe is simple–gather over a sweet treat to openly discuss aspects of death and dying, in a freeform way, with participants setting the pace.  Death Cafe isn’t a substitute for therapy or grief work, but is a safe space for people to explore the many facets of their thoughts about death.  If you’re interested in more, and you’re in Austin, you can find Death Cafe Austin on Facebook .

And more:

If you’re still curious and want to exercise your Death Positivity muscles a little bit more, consider the following:


Have questions?  Wanna talk death?  Ready to dig in and plan your final arrangements?

Let’s do it!  Call me (512)763-7185.

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