As the days ahead grow shorter than those passed, middle-aged and older adults become more aware of the inevitability of death. For many people, talking about the end-of-life is to be avoided at all costs, but it is an inescapable reality. New technologies, grief support options, and professions to ease families and individuals through the end-of-life process have recently emerged that help normalize discussions about death and create a more comforting journey for all involved.
According to a recent USA Today report, with so many lives lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more workplaces and schools are offering bereavement resources to employees and students. More websites and apps have also been developed recently to help guide people through the loss of a loved one and cope with the complex issues surrounding death. The Empathy app offers step-by-step tools to guide families through all the things that need to be taken care of following the loss of a loved one and provides care support in grief.
Virtual reality has also taken the leap into death and dying with VR platforms that address the soul’s journey into the afterlife, in “Before Your Eyes”, or tackle the battle with cancer, in “That Dragon, Cancer”. Although it might seem morbid to address death so plainly in a gaming environment, many find that these storylines help people feel less alone in their experience. Death is also being tackled more directly in recent films and documentaries, helping to empower people to talk about end-of-life, make preparations, and forge deeper connections with others.
Death is also a big business in the modern world, but many new options have emerged for people to choose the type of send-off they wish, including environmentally-friendly “Green Burials”, or celebrations of life. Death Doulas are also newer on the scene; trained individuals help to guide people and their loved-one through the process of dying and bereavement with support and comfort. For those who wish for a memorial they can carry with them, companies that turn ashes or hair into a diamond for a piece of remembrance jewelry are also an option for grieving families.
Talking opening about end-of-life wishes and plans may be uncomfortable to initiate, but families can avoid a great deal of stress during a time of crisis, as well as spending money on expensive items like a casket or services that were not necessary. Creating a document such as a living will or advanced directive can help individuals make their last wishes known, and lift some of the burdens off loved ones when difficult decisions must be made.