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Into the light

Death. It’s a subject that touches us all – but we often don’t consider how better understanding death can be a pathway to improving our wellbeing. 

Melanie Mayell, the organiser of this year’s Death Matters conference, says much like how Covid-19 has made us appreciate our health, community and the little things we take for granted, talking about death can help us learn to appreciate life more.

“Death is a silent teacher, hiding in plain sight. She teaches us and helps us prioritise what’s important, and then urges us to get on with it.”

“And when life becomes more precious, we are kinder to each other.”

Melanie says having open, honest discussions about death helps us live life with more passion.

“The more we embrace life as finite - that there is in fact, a beginning, middle and end - the richer our life experiences can be.”

“It can encourage us to look at life and its problems as opportunities and challenges. Knowing death helps us to be present, live in the moment, use all of our senses and cherish the things that give us joy."

Melanie says expanding our understanding of death is not just for old people, as it affects us all.

“In Western culture, we’re quite poor at endings and the emotions involved. Being familiar with death can help us deal with ‘the end’ – but it also aids in coping with the lots of small endings in our lives. These might be end of a relationship, the last day of a job, leaving home, finally completing a project or even being lonely.”

In 2016 Melanie started Christchurch’s Death Café to encourage people of all ages to speak more openly about death. After having some incredibly deep conversations with amazing people, Melanie soon realised she needed to find more ways to increase people’s familiarity with the subject of death, which led her to organising the inaugural Death Matters Conference in 2019.

This year’s event features many scholars and speakers in the subject, from Spirituality and Intuition, Suicide Prevention, Death of a Child, Euthanasia and the future of Death and Immortality. Find out more at https://www.deathmatters.nz/

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