The Attitude Towards Death in Articles: Behind the Formaldehyde Curtains by Mitford and On The Fear of Death by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Death is inevitable and unexplainable which is why people fear death. Nobody wants to die leaving behind all the memories of family and friends behind. “Behind the formaldehyde curtains” by Mitford and “On the fear of death” by Ross both share the same view on we handle and deal with death. They both believe that we are unable to accept death as a normal part of life which leads to denial. Ross uses many examples for the purpose of supporting her view and Mitford uses the embalming process as the main point of discussion in her article to support her view. They both give very detailed examples in their articles to support their arguments
“Behind the formaldehyde curtains” by Mitford focuses on the process of embalming and she gives us details on how it’s done and why people don’t seem to care about it. Her main argument is that the whole process of embalming is to make the deceased look more presentable to family and friends during the open casket funeral. She talks about how the body of deceased person can be deconstructed and the mouth can be sown together to give off a relaxed or pleasant expression.
This process takes away the whole concept of sadness from death and it leads to denial. It strengthens the feelings of denial towards a dead person which doesn’t help people freely accept that death is an inevitable part of life that everyone goes through. The idea is to make the person looks as alive and happy as possible. Mitford believes the funeral industry contributes to this as they only care about selling their services to the vulnerable and weak people suffering the loss of a loved one which only takes away the feeling of sadness from death therefore, the family and friends end up in denial.
Kubler ross’ “On the fear of death” criticizes the attitudes we have regarding death. The essay by Ross starts off by talking about how regardless of the way modern medicine has helped reduce sickness and death, it mostly has increased the inability to accept death amongst people. Death is an inevitable certainty which has always been emphasized on in every culture. Death is scary topic that people rarely talk about because they are afraid of it. Kubler Ross talks about this, she argues that children being protected from hearing about death or being around the dead by shipping them away from home which lead to them being unable to process or accept that it is a natural part of life that everyone eventually deals with. She also makes mention of how euphemisms are used to make the dead look like they are asleep, this is something Jessica Mitford talks about in detail; the embalming process.
I believe we as humans do not accept death which is why we fear death and resort to things like embalming and lying to kids about the death of a family member to prevent them from knowing. We need to accept that death is a natural part of life just like birth, only then will we accept death. Once we are finally able to accept death, we will be able to accept everything else that comes with it. If a family member or a friend died due to an illness, an embalming process is only going to make that person look presentable in the moment and make you convince yourself that the person is okay, it slows down your process of being okay with losing someone. We have ultimately made dying an unpleasant experience that is never depicted positively which makes it impossible to find peace with it. Ross gives an example of a man who was involved in an accident and allowed to peacefully pass way in his own bed around the people he loved and how that helped them accept his death and be at peace with it.
She tells us how easy it would be to accept death if we stop running from it and embrace it. In an article by Credo, he talks about how both Christian and the Muslims acknowledge that our human dying is a reality which all of us need to acknowledge and for which we need to prepare for (Credo, 2012). This reflects a healthy view on religion that Kubler Ross believes we are missing. If we are able to do this, we wouldn’t have to resort to things like embalming or lying to kids about death or being in denial. If we are able to view death as a natural phenomenon, we will be able to respond to bereavement calmly, even joyfully(Boyraz, 2015). We might even be able to reach the point of celebrating death.
When we fear death, we stop living. In an article by Boyraz he says, “An awareness and acceptance of death gives meaning to human life”. This further proves that when we fear death, we are restricted in our activities and once we let go of this fear, we will be able to live life freely and to the fullest. Accepting death gives you a sense of freedom and a feeling of refreshment once you accept it. In another article by Marotta terry, she makes a point which supports that of Boyraz’. She says in denying death, we somehow deny ourselves life and live diminished (Terry, 2004). Both authors view on death are related to that of Mitford and Ross’. Mitford believes embalming is used as a mask to hide the reality of death which somehow leads to denial, denial stops you from living life to the fullest and accepting the reality of a situation.
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