Being death-positive can help prepare for the possible worst

From hockey rinks to the Heimlich maneuver

I’m the kind of person who likes to plan and prepare. It’s not as important to me that things go exactly according to plan but rather that there is a contingency if things go awry (and they do). This is likely due to spending ten years in a career that hyper-fixated on plans, manuals, scripting, and above all: the fear of litigation.

I and my ill-fitting pants would like to inform you that I also supervised world-famous roller coasters, too, okay?!

I’ve been a ride supervisor at amusement parks, a lifeguard instructor in the Wisconsin Dells, and a comedy club manager, plus a whole lot of interesting stuff in-between that may or may not have involved Zambonis.

All of those jobs required being two steps ahead and always knowing what to do if (when!) something goes wrong. I’ve dealt with choking, myriad medical emergencies, ride malfunctions, near-drownings, cardiac arrest, lost people, and even death more than once at these jobs. Because I was often in some type of leadership role, I would often be one of the first people to respond to these situations and sometimes the only one.

I’ve developed a way of coping with urgent matters and crises that requires me to be hands-on, at the ready, and knowing what to do next. Even now, when something happens, I call it going into Lifeguard Mode.

So when the next thing to do at this moment is nothing at all, I was frustrated and at a loss — it’s just not how I roll.

The death positive movement

Enter: Caitlin Doughty, bestselling author, mortician, and funeral director, better known on YouTube as Ask a Mortician. I’ve always been fascinated with death and the funeral industry in a way I couldn’t describe but Doughty’s content perfectly satisfies: what she (unofficially?) spearheads as the death positive movement.

Death positivity is about reforming the American death care industry and informing people about death, care (often hands-on whenever appropriate), what it all involves, and ritualizing to process grief and loss. Basically: all the things people wish they knew before dealing with the immediate aftermath of losing a loved one and learning the hard way… and also some interesting bonus material (all the things you’re afraid to ask, she’s probably answered).

To read more of this, please click here. This is an excerpt from a piece curated by Medium editors for their publications. Your readership directly impacts my income as a writer and if you hit the paywall but enjoy my other writing or non-Medium pieces, consider joining the program to support not just me, but other fantastic writers!


I’m a writer, author, and essayist based in Los Angeles. I’d be delighted to connect with you through my mailing list, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (in that order).

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