Death positivity is not just a mindset, it’s also a practice. This space is an ongoing chronicle of ways that death positive ideas are emerging in communities all across the world—from volunteer efforts, to live performance, to the reimagining of traditional death spaces.
The Coffin Chair
The coffin chair is a conceptual design by Yeyang Liao—a chair that transforms into a coffin to hold the dead body during the cremation process. Liao explains the tradition in China of people “in their 60’s preparing a coffin early, in order to wish for a long life. They live with their coffin before death.” But in 2018, authorities in south-east China enacted a “zero burial” policy, forcing everyone to choose cremation to save space. Videos circulated of the elderly weeping as their coffins were forcibly pulled from their homes. But if the coffins could also be used as chairs, as furniture in the home, “elders would have the right to keep it, then the tradition could keep going.”
Patria Soli translates to “Homeland Soil,” a socially engaged art project for people who are not able to return to their homeland at the end of their life. The project delivers soil from a person’s homeland directly to them. “In this diverse country” they explain, “one’s ideas and beliefs around death greatly vary, and, therefore, respecting these has become more important than ever. Our eventual goal is to indirectly and directly help people and medical professionals understand that there are various ways of dealing with death in this world.”
Guided By Flowers is a grassroots effort in Los Angeles, spearheaded by death doula Anita Vuong. Floral arrangements are repurposed from local events and given to hospice patients. Recently, Guided by Flowers has expanded to facilitate “Death Over Flowers” workshops that focus on fostering conversations about death, “I think that flowers are a great example of the cycle of life, and they accompany us throughout so many different stages of our own lives… I think there’s a lot of healing in touching nature and arranging florals… so we wanted to marry the two things,” says Vuong.
Director Nia DaCosta’s 2021 Candyman is described as a “spiritual sequel” to the classic 1992 horror film of the same name. The shadow puppet sequence featured in the new film provides not only the main character’s origin story, but references to several real life instances of racially motivated murders from America’s history. This poignant shadow puppetry was created by Manual Cinema, led by Founding Order Member, Sarah Forance.
The Death Positive Library is a national framework for libraries in the United Kingdom. The concept is to make libraries more death positive spaces by developing events, activities, and resources that focus on engaging people in conversations around death and dying. “Libraries can be that safe, trusted space in the community to have conversations that might not always be welcome in every area of society” says project manager Victoria Dilly. “Having a space where those conversations can happen with caring staff on hand to support is actually really powerful.”
The Nest is an intimate, live experience that combines elements of narrative video games, serialized podcasts, and escape rooms to create a unique death positive experience in Los Angeles. A woman named Josie has recently died, leaving behind a storage room filled with decades of collected memories and cryptic secrets. Remnants of her entire life are left for you to discover.
A collective of women in Mexico known as Las Rastreadoras del Fuerte, (The Searchers of El Fuerte) travel the country searching for the remains of their missing loved ones. The Rastreadoras have created a cookbook that helps them to honor and memorialize their missing persons. The book features recipes of their loved one’s favorite food along with the date they disappeared. “The book enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food,” says chef Enrique Olvera, who co-sponsored the book.
At first glance, visitors to HOME—located in South Korea—might mistake this columbarium for a popular book store or hotel lounge. People sit around tables, sipping tea surrounded by high wooden shelves with beautiful leather-bound books with titles like “Inside the Wind and Sky.” The “books” wait patiently to be opened, but not read. Inside each book cover is a box that holds the cremated remains and special mementoes of someone who has died.
The Cemetery Birder
Danielle Belleny, a wildlife biologist and birder known as The Cemetery Birder, inspires people in cities to visit cemeteries as a way to destigmatize death and connect with nature, reminding us that cemeteries hold “an enormous amount of ecological diversity.” In talking about conservation burial Belleny says, “I didn’t expect birding to help me destigmatize death and define my final resting plans, but I couldn’t imagine a better way to be remembered. I’d be honored if my resting place sparks the journey of a new birder.” She is also a co-founder of
Black Birders Week, which seeks to counteract the racism Black people often experience while enjoying the outdoors.