“My current thinking is that the human condition is just one experience in a vast, living universe which we only perceive a tiny fraction of.”
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. We found a tiny cemetery with a locked fence, which added extra excitement to our trip. The key was available at the local police station, so we picked it up and opened the gates to this tiny old graveyard, in Dutch literally named “oude begraafplaats”.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
As my mother entered the final phase of her life due to terminal cancer, these past few months I was faced with the challenge of putting A Course in Dying into practice. In the light of truth and the ultimacy of reality, I feel it is important to share this honest account with you.
Rick Strassman is a medical doctor specialized in psychiatry and the author of the acclaimed book “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” in which he shares his groundbreaking research on N,N-Dimethyltryptamine during which he administered 400 doses of the powerful psychedelic drug to 60 volunteers at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine.
Back in August I took a summer school thanatology course at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. As part of the program we went on an excursion to a nearby crematorium to learn how the process of cremation actually works.
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.
Caitlin Doughty is an LA-based mortician, author, and founder of The Order of The Good Death, a group of professionals in the funeral industry who are committed to making a difference in our death phobic culture.