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Now We Can Talk About It

Despite the strong American impetus to turn death into a non-subject, Americans are starting to realize that talking about the reality of death is perhaps a good thing. Jessica Mitford’s 1963 bestselling book, The American Way of Death opened up the subject to much discussion. Even more influential was the book On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in which the author suggested five stages of the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, ultimate acceptance of the reality of death. Scores of other books, magazine articles, television and radio programs, documentaries, and dramatic films continue to treat the subject in a relatively open manner. With the new millennium, Americans are probably more willing than ever before to deal with the prospects of their own deaths and those of the people they care for. The subject is finally becoming respectable.

One very positive development in the American attitude has been the hospice movement, subject of a separate section within this chapter. Hospices give support both to the dying and to their families. Beyond hospices, most American communities have service providers who provide emotional support on death, dying and grief.

Despite the progress in dealing with the inevitability and finality of death, an abiding interest in “anti-death” subjects is alive and well in the United States. Popular subjects that fall beyond the boundaries of conventional religious views on death include immortality, extreme longevity, past-life regression, near-death experience, and reincarnation.


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