Death is scary, and even members of society with requisite training and experience (including funeral directors, therapists and clergy) sometimes have trouble processing the death of a loved one. So, why should people in their 20s take the time to educate themselves about death? I mean, who in their right mind would ever want to sit around and think about dying! That's so... depressing.
Yet, countless studies have shown us that the benefits of death education far outweigh any associated taboos or negatives. Whether you do a quick Google search, buy a book or speak with a professional, the benefits of educating yourself about the process of death is important, and it can help in ways you probably never imagined. So, why don't young adults take the time to learn about the process of death?
Well, to put it simply, they're scared shitless at the prospect of facing their own fates. After all, they're a part of the demographic known as the invincibles -- you know -- the generation of young adults who perceive themselves as being immune to sickness or injury, and surely they don't need to go any further and think about that "scary thing" that happens when you get older.
In fact, if you asked someone in their 20s what he or she thinks about death education, they would probably say something along the lines of, "OMG, ewww, nooooo!" Or maybe a simple, "Wooooooah." Well, listen up 20-somethings: Electing to ignore something as impactful as death is not a solution, and as someone who has officiated, managed and attended funeral services, believe me when I tell you, you need to be able to comprehend the incomprehensible, or at least start thinking about being able to process the inevitable.
Here are 5 benefits of educating yourself about death in your 20s:
1. Being prepared can help ease a painful process and move you towards healing.
This is an easy one. If you had a final exam or an important work assignment, you would take the time to study or prepare in advance, right? Well, the same concept applies when it comes to preparing for the loss of family or close friends. Though the death of a loved one may seem uncommon for people in their 20s, in fact it is typically the period during which young adults will lose a grandparent. Being prepared can reduce the fear, anxiety and confusion that usually accompany the death of a family member. Don't get it twisted, the death of a family member can (and probably will) disrupt your life, but being entirely unprepared for that experience can have lasting effects for people ill-equipped to handle such a traumatic event. By taking measures and readying yourself for the inevitable, you're replacing all the unknowns that come with losing a loved one, and this helps to begin the grieving process.
2. Being a better friend and a more empathetic person.
Taking care of others, helping someone in their time of need -- sounds like being a good friend, doesn't it? Yet, how many times has a friend or a co-worker opened up to you about the death of a loved one and you simply didn't know what to say? In fact, your silence might even be considered apathetic, when in truth, you were probably just scared. It's a natural impulse to try to avoid risky interpersonal situations, and that's how many young adults view discussing death, as a risky endeavor. Everyone fears sounding stupid, and the last thing anyone would ever want to do is upset a friend who is already grieving, but it doesn't have to be like that. By taking the time to educate yourself about death and the grieving process, not only will you be in a position to be a better friend to those close to you; you will be a more empathetic person in general.
3. Appreciation for what you have before you experience loss.
The notion that actively thinking about death can help you appreciate and value life is not a revolutionary concept. As humans, we tend to cherish the things that seem most precious to us. German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote about how death awareness (the "nothing") enables us to shift to a mode where we simply appreciate that things are (the "being there"), as opposed to worrying about how or what things are. But you don't need a dead German philosopher to tell you what you already know, so allow me translate that quote into the language a 20-something might understand -- YOLO!
4). Building a sense of spirituality to help cope with life's difficulties.
More than ever before, young adults identify as being "spiritual" rather than religious in the traditional sense. Life without spirituality can be like a glass with no bottom: No matter how much you pour into it, it all comes out the bottom. You don't need to be a theologian to understand that thinking about mortality-related issues can raise all sorts of "big picture"-type questions about life. Adding spirituality to one's life helps build a foundation, a bottom to the glass. Individuals who value spirituality take the time reflect on their lives, and eventually on their deaths.
5. Dealing with fear in a productive way.
I'm not going to quote FDR here, but you get my point. Living a life full of fear is not living a life at all. So many times I've heard young adults refer to the death of a loved one as "passing on." Though that choice of verbiage may seem insignificant, it seems to be representative of a deeper, more fundamental problem: if young adults can't even say the word death, how are they ever going to ever face it in their own lives? Like any fear, it can be rational and still be unhealthy, but regardless, it can be overcome, and all it takes is a little time for discussion and education!