Dying Well Initiative
TREND 1: The Grief Gap
COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on ethnic and racial minorities. “Minority groups are disproportionately affected by chronic medical conditions and lower access to healthcare, [and] are more likely to experience living and working conditions that predispose them to worse outcomes.” These impacts lead to what is known as the Grief Gap, where minorities face significantly greater losses throughout historic cycles.
i: Introduction to COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Available at: CDC
ii: The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States. Available at: Oxford Academics
TREND 2: Pre-planning IS Adulting
The pandemic has caused a great shift in the way many younger adults view mortality—not only their own, but of those around them as they also watch their parents enter older adulthood. With a firm footing in the digital age, information management after death is also a significant component of the mortality conversation. With the younger generations’ desire for sustainability, and the significant increases in overall general costs over time, young people are planning for end-of-life like never before.
i: The COVID-19 Wake-Up Call: Survey Finds 72% of American Millennials with Wills Created or Updated in the Past Year. Available at: CISION PR Newswire
ii: Millennials, Feeling Their Mortality During COVID-19, Start Writing Their Wills. Available at: The Wall Street Journal
TREND 3: The Metaverse, Digital Graveyards and NFT’s Emerge for End of Life & Grief
As space in cemeteries is scarcer than ever and alternative methods of disposal continue to take hold, digital real estate offers an endless source for memorializing loved ones and monetizing digital assets. Remember Metaverse made international waves as they released the first Memorial Stone Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) in November of 2021. Virtual gatherings in the metaverse now include avatar-based gatherings including grief circles, memorial services and celebrations of life.
i: The World’s 1st Commemorative NFTs & Dedicated Metaverse. Available at: Remember Metaverse | Place for the loved ones
ii: Would You Pay to Be ‘Buried’ in a Metaverse Cemetery? Available at: Rolling Stone
iii: Four Things you Might Not Know about your Digital Afterlife. Available at: Science Focus
TREND 4: Scaling up to Address Global Trauma, Loss, and Grief
Our world has faced multi-faceted grief and trauma through the pandemic, and in one way or another, everyone has experienced some form of loss: loved-ones, jobs, friendships, and our overall way of life. The decreasing state of the mental health of the world at large leads us to presume that the rate of suicide will likely increase unless we take measures to mitigate the sense of hopelessness developed over the past two years: “We need to consider scaling-up the counseling interventions commonly utilized for working with grieving clients.” The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of end-of-life care and how significantly it has been missing from humanitarian response. Helping loved-ones on their journey to end-of-life can bring a great sense of peace, and therefore should be considered part of the grieving process.
i: Scaling up to Address Global Trauma, Loss, and Grief Associated with COVID-19. Available at: American Phycological Association
ii: A Field Manual for Palliative Care in Humanitarian Crises. Available at: Journal of Palliative Medicine
TREND 5: A Refocus on Bereavement Leave Policies and Workplace Bereavement
With the significant loss and grief that has come with the global pandemic, there has been a significant shift in the understanding and support of the grieving process. In the home, the workplace, and even at different levels of government, we can see advocacy for time to properly process the grief and trauma that comes with loss. The direct impact of the pandemic has created this awareness and opened the door for a deeper and more progressive conversation about grief.
i: After a Year of Loss, Grief Support should be a Permanent Benefit. Available at: Fast Company
ii: Government Bereavement Leave Petition. Available at: Evermore
iii: Supporting Employees Navigating Grief and Substance Use. Available at: Talent Culture
TREND 1: Discussing Grief in the Workplace
Employers will, for the first time, recognize that open conversations, benefits, and policy changes are not only important but critical to “returning to work.”
TREND 2: The Use of Psychedelics During End-of-Life Care
Studies are continually being conducted on how psychedelics can ease anxiety, depression, and other emotions associated with a terminal diagnosis.
Not only can people with terminal illnesses benefit from psychedelic use, but there is also substantial evidence that many people who have a psychedelic experience feel less fear about death and other natural cycles of life. This could be a great gateway to conversation on a topic that has previously been considered taboo or morbid.
TREND 3: Racial Equality
Racial equality seems as unbalanced in death as in life. COVID-19 magnified the light shone on racial inequality in the US (and other colonized countries) by the deaths of George Floyd, Brionna Tayler, Ahmaud Arbery and many more. Many socioeconomic factors play into the disparity, along with a healthcare system riddled with systemic racism.
As we confront racism in other aspects of life, it is important that we confront racism in healthcare, death and grief.
TREND 4: Wearable Technologies
An increase in the importance of wearable technology to aid in both aging in place and managing healthcare as a tool for people to stay in their home setting as long as possible and maintain outpatient care with their doctors (the Fitbit or Apple watch are two examples, but this wearable tech is now able to keep track of heart rate and oxygen levels and to transmit that automatically). This tech will only become more sophisticated, particularly as people want to age in place and stay out of care homes.
Along these lines, I also think we will see a rise in smartphone apps to manage grief care, assist in EOL planning, keep advanced directive files, allow virtual appointments with doctors, therapists, etc. The number of apps created just in the last few years has absolutely expanded. In Asia, there are numerous apps to virtually visit gravestones, make virtual offerings, burn virtual candles, etc. So the smartphone is becoming important not only in managing EOL planning but in providing virtual access to grief care and graveyard visits.
TREND 5: Popularization of Alternate Disposal Methods
Alternate disposal methods, such as composting the body, alkaline hydrolysis, natural burial, placing cremains in a sea reef, or turning the cremains into wearable jewelry or tattoos, are gaining more popularity. Additionally, more and more people are realizing the invasive nature of embalming and are declining to include that as part of their disposal choice. These trends are part of the global move toward caring for the land and becoming conscious of how choices impact the carbon footprint.
TREND 1: More Use of Technology during End of Life
We’ll see a rise in tech-enabled businesses around death and dying as well as grief. More and more companies are emerging. An article for Vox publication written by Eleanor Cummins from January of 2020 titled, “Why millennials are the ‘death positive’ generation,” provides a detailed explanation and overview. Robotics, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) solutions will be rapidly supporting all areas of grief and death, especially given the fact that with the population aging comes the population dying.. As mentioned in the link below, VR is now being used by hospice and hospitals to offer relief to terminally ill patients and those living with dementia. A charity hospice in London offers dying patients the opportunity to run with wild horses in Iceland, go skydiving, or tour Venice’s canals aboard a gondola, all without leaving their beds.
TREND 2: Conversations about Death/End of Life Will Increase and Become Normalized
In many cultures, there is resistance, or even silence, to conversations surrounding dying, death and grief. We predict that as people begin to engage in activities such as living funerals, death dinner parties and death cafes, conversations around death, dying and grief will become normalized.
TREND 3: Green Burials on the Rise
In these troubling ecological times, many people are turning to greener options post-death. Not only is it better for the environment, but it is also a much more personalized and cost-effective manner to say goodbye to loved ones.
TREND 4: The Use of Death Doulas
In North America and Great Britain, there is a rise in the existence of death/end of life doulas. Similar to a birth doula, this person will assist a dying individual and, typically, also the family before, during and after a death occurs in order to provide physical, emotional, psychological and even spiritual support.
TREND 5: More Grief Support in Hospitality and the Workplace
As the wellness world begins to speak about death and grief more openly, many hospitality groups shall grasp the importance of grief retreats and look at extending their wellness offering to include such programs.
Likewise, with the recognition that grief costs employers billions annually, and bereavement takes more than a few days, often months or even years, employers will create more flexible and supportive benefits related to family loss. https://grief.com/grief-in-the-workplace/
The Global Wellness Institute serves as an umbrella organization for numerous Initiatives, that are independently chaired and run. The resources, editorial, research and opinions presented by the Initiatives do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Global Wellness Institute.