During the past year that I’ve been working on this blog, a lot of people have asked me – aside from the general inquisitions about my seemingly morbid interest in anything dead and dying: “Claudia, what is this death awareness thing exactly? What does it mean?!” As the concept of death awareness is popping up out of obscurity a lot recently, let me explain it to you.
We don’t like to think the seemingly unthinkable. Some of us are even convinced that mere thoughts of death will trigger the actual event. But what happens when we do face our biggest fear? Here are some steps to help you figure out the answers for yourself.
Roger’s work reflects an exploration of existential subjects and invites the audience to go on a journey within themselves. I sat down with Roger and asked him about his experiences with death, and how the theme of mortality is embedded in his life and art.
Miranda Benge Robindorf is a young mortician from Kentucky who popped up on my radar when her epic video interview with Refinery29 came out. I was instantly intrigued by the combination of her sense of style and sincere approach on working with the dead. I asked Miranda about her own experiences with loss and how she feels about the funeral industry.
“My relation to spirituality has changed during the years. It’s a bit like the path the writer Huysmans took: from satanic to deeply religious at the end of his life.”
My friend Carola invited me to join her on a trip to Bloemendaal, a town near the Dutch coast. Hidden away on the edge of a forest is a small cemetery, Begraafplaats Adelbert. Carola had a good reason for visiting this special place as her father is buried here. I was honored and excited to come along on this beautiful day.
“I would prefer to die somewhere below the Kang Ya Tse glacier, silently amongst nature and birds of prey.”
On a cloudy winter’s day I teamed up with Sheldon Goodman from London who runs an epic blog called the Cemetery Club. As you may have guessed, he writes about the history of the dead. He likes to refer to cemeteries as “libraries of the dead”. We met up while he was visiting Amsterdam, and what else do two thanatophiles do other than exploring one of these libraries of deceased?
After my visit to LA I traveled on to Arizona to visit one of America’s most popular national parks: the Grand Canyon. On the south rim of the canyon, hidden beneath the pines, lies Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery, together with the Shrine of the Ages. Let’s explore this special graveyard and see what it can tell us about the history of the park.
Ever since my first visit to Los Angeles in 2012 I have been in love with Hollywood Forever Cemetery. For me, coming from the gloomy part of Europe, visiting a sun-kissed graveyard that’s so well maintained, with squirrels darting around and a skyline filled with palm trees, is equivalent to a tropical beach vacation.
“Times are changing. We are entering a new spiritual era and the subject of death will eventually no longer be taboo.”
The remarkably impressive gothic grave monuments of Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh had been calling to me for a while, so I thought it was about time I paid this cemetery a visit and took a trip to Scotland.
I asked Ross about his numerous adventures and his near-brushes with death, the things we could learn from Mexican death culture and his visits to over 150 cemeteries.
“Engaging with death related subjects inspires us to accept the fact that we are mortal, that we will die, and gives us an opportunity to discover what that means to us.”
“Suicide makes people uncomfortable as there is not just grief to deal with, but someone wanted this – someone consciously wanted to die, which adds an extra dimension to it.”
Located on the outskirts of the center close to Scheveningen and the coastline, the cemetery was built on a sandy dune landscape back in 1830. Next to its gorgeous grave monuments the property also contains a building known as the ‘Apparent Dead House’. With the sun and a gentle sea breeze as my guides, I explored this beautiful piece of history.
I asked Denis about his relationship with death, the connection between his dreams and the afterlife, and his fascination with dark historical accounts of divine revelations.
Last year when my mother died I remember wondering how the process of grief would unfold for me. I had the idea of writing an assessment of this a year later. Today, one year and a couple weeks after the day she died, I will share my experiences with you. Of how the difficult memories have slowly shifted from dark to light and how the beautiful ones have found their way back into my thoughts.
“I like to think of the afterlife as a new experience; even as a different kind of life. The soul leaves its corporeal form to transcend itself in another place.”
Amy Haslehurst is a visual artist from Australia, currently residing in Iceland. Through her photography she captures the otherworldly magnificence of the Icelandic landscape and combines this with influences of old dark folklore, to tell stories that often touch upon the subject of mortality. I asked Amy about her own experiences with death and how her ideas inspire her art.
In the Netherlands the laws and regulations for euthanasia have been shifting lately. The basic question is: what are the requirements for someone to decide to end their life, and how can we legally support this?
Autumn is definitely my favorite season. And with the trees turning golden yellow and red, the best time to visit a cemetery. This time I went to one in Nijmegen: begraafplaats Daalseweg.
“I don’t think age is tied to losing a loved one. It can happen to anyone, at any time. Children are people too, and they can experience loss at a young age.”
I got an email from Ruben the other day, a musician from Germany who lost his sixteen year old daughter. He told me he agreed with my urge to break the taboo around the subject of death, as through the death of his daughter he experienced this in his surroundings himself. Here is Ruben’s story.
Lisa Nilsson recreates anatomical cross-sections from small rolls of paper with a technique called “quilling”. The structures generated through this strongly resemble the look and feel of real bone tissue.
This picturesque town happens to be home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands, Beth Haim. The cemetery was established by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1614.
As Freud called it “the royal road to the unconscious,” dreams about death and dying can suggest a phase of transition or transformation. But when death actually takes place in our reality, we tend to dream about this specific death a lot. Let me share my death dreams with you, and explore how the process of grief continues on while we are sound asleep.
Mortiis is the wicked brainchild and band name, as well as the moniker of a goblin-like creature, brought to life by Norwegian musician Håvard Ellefsen. I asked Håvard about his view on mortality and if he can imagine what his funeral will be like.
Earlier this month I visited Oberhausen for Acherontic Arts festival with my friend and partner-in-crime photographer Nona Limmen. We had one day left in Germany after the festival and decided to visit the nearby city of Duisburg.
Dutch movie director Tom Six is best known for his horror trilogy ‘The Human Centipede’. I asked Tom what inspired him to make this, and how he really feels about the inevitable human end of human life that comes with death.
Christian Fuchs is a Peruvian artist who gives new meaning to the concept of ancestor worship. Through his photography he transforms himself into his relatives by creating self-portraits inspired by their portraits and paintings.
I visited two cemeteries during my stay in Iceland’s winter wonderland: one in downtown Reykjavik and a smaller one in Vik. If you’re into snow covered graves and tiny wooden churches, I have some treats in store for you!