“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.”
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.
While visiting Westerveld cemetery in Driehuis, the Netherlands, I stumbled upon a peculiar gravestone. A Dutch poem was engraved on it that made me smile, but then I noticed another intriguing fact. The gravestone had a birthdate, but no death date. This person was still alive!
Although the Netherlands is fairly small, it has an abundance of cute little towns with a rich history worth exploring. I went to visit Baarn, a small town in the province of Utrecht, together with my friend Macha who grew up in the area.
“Embalming is not necessary, but its benefits can be remarkable. I have given parents the ability to see their children who were beyond recognizable after a car wreck, and I have let children see their father after he took his own life by shooting himself in the face.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“A spiritual system I connect to is Pandeism – in short, the idea that whatever God was before the creation of the universe, that the last great creative act of expression for this being was to commit suicide, and in doing so, created the universe as we know it today.”
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?
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.
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.