The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way death and funerals are viewed and handled, which is putting an emphasis on "dying well." The "dying well" trend was first noted in 2019 by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), and it's purpose was to take a wellness spin to the previously "western modernized" view of death.1
Studies have shown that a fear and negative outlook on death causes serious mental illnesses; therefore, the purpose of this movement and trend was to shine a positive light on death. Some of the ways of doing this included: funerals that focused on being deeply personal and celebratory and death doulas to help bridge the gap to people learning to accept death as being part of a mentally healthy life.
With more than 100,000 people having died from COVID-19 in the United States alone, a conversation has been created around death that has really taken on this trend.
“As we’ve seen, there’s a whole new movement brewing about being more open about death, with people actively working on their fears, pushing to make the dying process better and more humane, and reinventing the memorial and funeral.” 2
During the height of the pandemic, no more than 10 people would be allowed inside of a funeral home for a funeral. Several families opted to cremate their loved ones due to their unexpected passing from the virus and not being able to funeralize them properly. This has caused a hybrid version of funerals that take a more digital spin.
The "dying well" trend had already stated how the business of funerals is expensive and a bit of a mystery, and the pandemic has emphasized this original though leading people to take creative turns in the ways they are choosing to bury their loved ones. One example of this has been cremation, which many people have turned to for sustainability reasons.
“Cremations offer a way to say goodbye to loved ones during the pandemic while adhering to social distancing and travel precautions. But as Nie notes, this uptick isn’t strictly a reflection of the pandemic: It falls in line with a trend that began in 2015 and will likely continue.”3 Dutch Nie is the spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association.
While this trend has been in play for a few years now, COVID-19 has accelerated the process of relooking at how we perceive dying, and leading to wellness solutions for grief and fear of dying.