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Is Death the New Sex?

I bet I got your attention with that headline.

As I enter into my seventh year as a death-awareness educator and my fourth year producing the annual Afterlife Conference, I am constantly reminded about how resistant most people are to the topic of death. We already know that mainstream America is uncomfortable with the subject, but I was surprised to discover, through working with educators, healers, clergy and New Age leaders, that even many of the "spiritual" people are unable to look death in the eye.

Launching a public dialog about death in today's world is similar to how my generation -- the baby boomers -- broke through the taboo about discussing sex prior to the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Masters & Johnson and the Kinsey Report led the way when they shocked America by actually talking publicly -- and scientifically - about sex, and those of us in the conscious dying movement today are doing the same thing with the next great taboo.

And why wouldn't we? For the past 50 years my generation has been distinguished by its ability to dismantle and reconstruct social conventions. We directed the harsh light of truth onto the sexism, racism, religious dogma and blind patriotism that dominated the social landscape in the 1950s and 1960s, and we produced a crop of brilliant leaders who paved the way for transformation. Social activists like Gloria Steinem, Jesse Jackson and Tom Hayden; spiritual teachers like Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass and Carolyn Myss; and media moguls like Oprah Winfrey have opened doors to new ways of thinking about life on earth. Now, as baby boomers face old age, a new door is being presented… the exploration of death and beyond. And with it, a new wave of teachers is boldly addressing this taboo topic.

But talking about death is as uncomfortable for many today as talking about sex was in the days of Ozzie and Harriet. If this was 1961 and I was producing a conference or publishing books about research and experiences related to sex, society would be horrified, and very few people would come to my conference or buy my books. I am seeing a similar response to talking about death in 2014. I've done market research that shows when I use the word "death" in press releases or promotional materials, I get a tiny response compared to the response I get if I use different word choices in the same material.

Those of us who are bringing this topic into the public forum are the new Masters & Johnson, and it is our privilege and responsibility to take death out of the closet. It amazes me how much fear and shunning about death still exist in today's world, especially when it comes from people who would seem to know better, including some medical professionals, psychologists and others in the helping professions. And when we take the conversation one step further by addressing the survival of consciousness after death (i.e, the afterlife), many of these professionals run for the hills.

I am happy to report that change is coming, albeit slowly. Our afterlife conference grows bigger and better each year, and the gap is slowly being bridged between science and metaphysics when it comes to topics such as deathbed visions and near-death experience.

It is an honor and a blessing to be part of a shift toward radical change... again.