Death Positive Movement

What does Death Positive mean?

These are the Tenets of the Death Positive Movement:

  1. I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
  2. I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.
  3. I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.
  4. I believe that the dead body is not dangerous, and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.
  5. I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.
  6. I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.
  7. I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes, and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
  8. I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.

As with any movement, there are misunderstandings surrounding what the movement is and what it is NOT. Here’s a piece dispelling some of the myths about the death positive movement by defining what it is not.

Here’s a recent article that delves into the history of the movement, how it shows up during the pandemic and social justice movements, and the benefits of being death positive.

While you’re here be sure to check out our video on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Death Positive People.

What is the origin of the term death positive?

From Caitlin Doughty: “I’m lucky to know a number of advocates in the sex positive community. My understanding of sex positivity was, in part: “I’m fascinated by human sexuality and my own relationship to sex and I refuse to be ashamed of that interest. I was sure if there was sex positivity, there would also be death positivity. But when I did the deep dive Google search, nothing. So several years ago I asked the Order of the Good Death’s Facebook and Twitter community about why that might be. As always, you had brilliant thoughts that helped shape what the death positive movement has become.”

See the original tweet here.

Who is Ernest Becker and what does he have to do with the death positive movement?

Our work at The Order is inspired by the work of anthropologist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Ernest Becker. Learn about Becker’s work and The Denial of Death on the Ernest Becker Foundation website. 

What are some ways we can use death positivity to change culture?

Here are two TED talks where Caitlin lays out why she thinks being present with the dead body, and adopting green and natural burial practices has the potential to change ourselves and the world. Watch The Corpses that Changed my Life and Recomposition and Conservation Burial.

In this interview Order director, Sarah, talks about the ways death positivity intersects with feminism, and it’s potential to help dismantle the roots of inequality, racism, and social marginalization.