Week Sixty

My Favorite Bit of Information From The Week:

Kate’s Take On Death Avoidance

I went to my friend Lana’s death meditation last night. It was beautiful. When a lot of people think death meditation, I believe they think “bummerville”, or that it’s something that might bring on anxiety. It certainly has the potential to be both of these things, but as I was contemplating my own mortality last night, in the incredibly safe space that Lana (a trained Death Doula and trauma-aware teacher) created last night I realized something on a deeper level. Thinking about death, gives me life. Thinking about death, and coming to terms with it is freeing, and has been incredibly helpful in assisting me to live more fully while dealing with my mental illness, even straight up healing my mental illness in many respects. It got me to wondering why – on a scientific level. 

Why Does Facing Death Give Life To Those With Mental Illness?

Death, just like mental illness has a stigma (a mark of shame) on it in our culture. I believe that this fear of death – just like our fear of mental illness – is causing us to live less healthy and full lives. I know this has been true for me a great deal of my life. There is a theory in the psychological field right now, that the fear of death may be contributing (or in some cases causing) mental illness, and the avoidance of treating the fear of death is keeping us from healing and living on a stronger level. Some even believe that the fear of death may be at the core of all of our anxieties and depressions. Now, some illnesses are genetic and biological, and cannot be helped fully without medication and professional help, but others are caused by external factors. I, for example, have P.T.S.D (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) and it is one of the mental illnesses that is theorized to be most helped from death therapy and exposure (meaning exposure to death through literature, experience, or conversation as a means to heal and change your relationship to death). I have found it to be healing for me. My exposure to death has been life giving. 

This is my favorite article on how avoiding death may be causing us to life less full lives. Within, there is a list on the ways death avoidance might be limiting our ability to live, and the author talks about “Microsuicides” as a way the brain avoids death. “The commission of small ‘suicides’ on a daily basis to achieve mastery over death. The universal tendency in ‘normal’ individuals to be more or less self-destructive is not due to a death instinct; rather, it represents a formidable defense against the fear of death. By withdrawing feeling and positive energy from personal pursuits and goal-directed activity, individuals reduce their vulnerability to the anticipated loss of self through death.”

When we avoid death the body and brain come up with all sorts of unhealthy ways to keep us diverted from our fear. Whether it’s causing us to live with constant anxiety or depression, or by causing us to create unhealthy relationships, or the countless other ways. Contemplating death can be uncomfortable, especially if you have developed deep habits of avoidance (as I had). However, it gets easier as you practice, and I think it’s important to know what our fear is causing us to miss out on, or what it’s causing us to live with. And no matter what you believe about death – whether you are religious or not – not thinking about death (or the reality of yourself dying on this earth) can cause or perpetuate mental illness including  anxiety, depression, and a lack of interest or enjoyment in your life. While there have only been a few studies done on death exposure therapy, I find it incredibly exciting and healing to think that we may be approaching a time of more inquiry – scientific and spiritual – regarding our relationship with death.

Death, Me, Dying Tree: 

Death, Me, Dying Tree: The event last night was filmed (with the consent of all the participants) and will be made into a documentary that is taking the temperature about how different locations across the country feel about death right now. For more on Lana and the project you can follow her on facebook

What Is A Death Doula?: Just like a birth doula helps you come into this world, a death doula helps you leave this world. They can help you process, understand your options, assist your family with coping, and more. For more information on death doulas, to find a trained doula near you, or to seek training yourself, check out INELDA (International End Of Life Doula Association). 

How Do I Learn More About Dealing With Death?: 

If you are curious about looking at death in a new way, sitting in on a conversation about death, or finding help with your end of life plan (including will preparation, power of eternity, burial options- including green burial options) You can check in with any of the following resources.  


1.) GetPalliativeCare.org : Find a local palliative care provider in your area 
2.) West Side United: A local organization that is addressing health, education and economic inequities through collaboration with local healthcare organizations.
3.) Oak Park Death Cafe: Contemplative discussions about life and death with the aim to live our best lives.  Next one is on 4/11 Saturday at 2pm. (free). 
4.) Grief Journaling Workshops: Monthly at the Oak Park Public Library (free) 
5.) End of Life Chicago : A recently established collective of doulas serving individual  endoflifechicago@gmail.com
6.) Unity Hospice 
7.) Rainbow Hospice 
8.) Many thanks to death doula Kathryn Weimann for providing the above resources. https://twitter.com/KathrynWeimann; 708-834-4900; kathryntweimann@gmail.com
9.) Death, Me, Dying Tree Project. Lana’s project that is touring the country, but you can also reach out to her for green burial questions, or questions about death in general, or where the project will be going next. deathmedyingtree@gmail.com ORhttps://www.facebook.com/deathmedyingtree/
10.) As always, you can check out my resources for affordable and free mental health care. 

All my best and heart to you, 

-Kate

More Art! 

Three beautiful artists I know are working on projects of their own right now, and I thought I would share them in case you wanted to give them a look. 

1. My Friend Chloe has created a web series based on Shakespeare’s As You Like It! 
You can watch the first episode on youtube

“Like What You Like” is a story that starts in Chicago with two cousins, Rosalind and Celia. When Rosalind meets a girl named Orlando, sparks fly. But Rosalind’s uncle is less than thrilled. Orlando is having family trouble, too, and, in Episode 1 “Breakout”, it all comes to a head at an underground boxing match. Subscribe to watch how the story unfolds in this 5-Episode web series. Follow us on Instagram: instagram.com/likewhatyoulikeseries Check us out on Facebook: facebook.com/likewhatyoulikeseries

2. Two of my friends met at a fundraiser and created a children’s musical together! You can learn more at their kickstarter. 

Update On My Show:

One Woman Hamlet Review! 

I was lucky enough to have the talented Margaret  Smith (Opinions Editor for The Columbia Chronicle) attend our first show at The Hideout Inn. Margaret wrote an article that really captured the nature of the project, and I am quite excited to share her words and experience with you today.

Resources

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