Death May Have Been Easier In The Past

In the modern world, we mourn very differently than our ancestors or even than people in less developed nations. Of course, having any kind of ritual around death is a sign of intelligence in animals, but people from say the middle ages or before would find how we mourn distinctly unnatural. We keep photos of dead relatives on our walls, we keep their Facebook pages up as memorials, and we are constantly shocked and struck at the death of a loved one, especially those that are young.

There is no right or wrong way to mourn the dead, and it is a deeply personal journey that everyone has to go on individually, but the way modern people treat death is less like a fact of life and more like something that should be resisted and fought against. Perhaps it’s because they encounter death on a daily basis, but preindustrial people tend to have a very different relationship with dying and death. When you have to kill and prepare your own food, the functions of a body shutting down become very routine to witness.

That’s not to say that people who live in remote areas of the Amazon or Papua New Guinea don’t mourn their dead, but they aren’t surprised or stunned by their passing. Death is a natural transition for them, even when the dying are young and seemingly healthy. Most people in societies like this are saddened by the passing of their loved ones, but they don’t allow themselves to be broken by it, even for a little while. It’s interesting in light of the various ways we mourn modernly, the elaborate rituals we engage in to say goodbye to someone (or in a lot of cases, to remember them in perpetuity). There isn’t a wrong way to look at death, but if you’re struggling with the idea or the reality of a lost loved one, it may help to remember that death, like life, is all around us, and is yet another step in our shared journey. That may be trite, but it’s not wrong.