Posted on April 26, 2014 at 9:13 AM
Just published, American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning explores the experiences of individual Americans involved with death in a culture where even discussing such things is practically taboo.
The book follows ordinary people making memorial choices as well as the purveyors of those choices to investigate how we memorialize our dead, where these practices came from, and what this says about us.
CNN Living reviewed the book this week and highlights an interesting difference between Victorian society and contemporary society. We hardly ever talk about death but talk about sex all the time. In contrast, the Victorians did not speak openly about sex but they were far ahead of us when it came to death.
Perhaps it was because they were accustomed to seeing death all around them. Disease was rampant and life spans shorter — the average American died at 47. Infant mortality was so high that parents did not name their babies until after a first birthday. Most people died at home; bodies were often laid out for viewing in front parlors.