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Growing Up with a Thanatologist

Having an expert on death around has been interesting, to say the least.

Photo by Gabriele Diwald

In my house, grief is a dinner table conversation. I can easily find a book on death in my mom’s office, and I’ve even been gifted books that deal with loss and grief (a notable one being Samsara Dog by Helen Manos).

I can’t tell you how many times my family has sat down together, talked about our day, and then...switched the conversation to something most people would rather avoid.

Death. Loss. Grief.

These words usually have a negative connotation, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Society has shaped us to think that these are bad things, things we can’t talk about.

My life, however, has taught me differently.

No, you don’t have to visit a graveyard and hang with ghosts to become a thanatologist.

Don’t worry, no one’s ever actually asked me that, but I have been asked how my mom got into thanatology in the first place—and what the word “thanatology” even means.

Essentially, thanatology is the scientific and/or psychological study of death, dying, loss, and grief. Sounds pleasant, right?