Experiences with Death is a new series we are hosting on the Elemental blog, featuring guest posts on grieving, coping with loss, and why conversations on death matter. This edition is written by Morgan Woroner, social media consultant for Elemental.
Whenever I tell people that I do social media consulting for a funeral home, I get some odd reactions. My daytime job is focused on science communication and education-based social media, so managing content for a funeral home is definitely off the beaten path for my colleagues. Most questions revolve around how one creates a content strategy for a funeral home or how to engage followers who may be grieving, but occasionally I get, “Why would you do that? It’s so morbid!”
Last year, I was listening to Savage Love, when Dan Savage started gushing about a new video he’d seen online. I was hooked on Ask A Mortician immediately. I even contacted Caitlin and Jeff, out of the blue, because I wanted to be a part of this movement. But, I’ll be honest – I was like a crazed fan girl in the emails, and that’s not me. Why would I do that?!
I did it, because like so many other people out there, I’ve had an experience with death, and not one that I could walk away from saying “c’est la vie.” During a time when I desperately wanted people to be honest and open about what was happening, I experienced family members refusing to talk about the inevitable. There was a family member, clearly dying, and there were no conversations about planning, or even any acknowledgement that she wasn’t going to pull through. I’ve often said that my family members are fainting goats when it comes to conflict – something bad happens, and they fall over, paralyzed, refusing to talk. Even the doctors refused to say, up until my grandmother was coding, “Listen, she may not come out of this.”
To this day, I still don’t know if there was no discussion about my grandmother dying because my family didn’t want to accept it, or because we don’t talk about unpleasant things. But not talking about it was heartbreaking in a different way, because it didn’t allow us to share the accomplishments of my grandmothers life with her in those final days. There was no cheerful reminiscing, there were no shared stories and laughter. There was silence. And that was not my grandmother’s life. Her life was filled with the cleanest house on the planet, fried chicken, and piles of clothes and purses from endless shopping. It was filled with old friendships, secret loves, daughters, granddaughters, and Christian Dior lipstick in the brightest orange red possible.
Discussing death is not morbid – not acknowledging the end of a great life is morbid. We should be talking about death every day, lest we start to take for granted all of the things we have in life. If my contribution to this movement is to plan social media strategy, so that others have the resources available to start desperately needed conversations, then I’ll create the most amazing strategy I can create.
Truth be told, I love this gig. It’s challenging, but endlessly rewarding. The amount of uplifting and helpful content I come across for Elemental’s accounts (shameless plug for our Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) increases daily, and it’s exciting to see conversations on death and green burial growing. I routinely joke with Jeff about the Order ending up on The Diane Rhem Show, but if the public interest is there, maybe it won’t be a joke for very long.