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How death is stoking joy in the time of Covid

Well-being and happiness are elusive concepts these days. They’ve been replaced by worry, anxiety, fear, illness and even death. From millennials to geriatrics, everyone is facing the same despair about finances, lack of agency, and end of life. And while all our concerns are different, often because of age, the overarching feelings are the same, […]

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Well-being and happiness are elusive concepts these days. They’ve been replaced by worry, anxiety, fear, illness and even death. From millennials to geriatrics, everyone is facing the same despair about finances, lack of agency, and end of life.

And while all our concerns are different, often because of age, the overarching feelings are the same, no matter the generation: How do I live my best life while the virus rampages through my world.

Psychiatrists prescribe all manner of fixes, from meditation to allowing the thoughts to pass, but they’re not always easy when there are decisions to be made. Parents have to figure out whether to send their children back to school, and 9-5ers have to decide when, or even if, they’ll go back to their offices.

As they confront these decisions and try to land on the best solutions, one thing keeps coming up: how to stay afloat and enjoy life, and how to plan in case death comes knocking.  Even the Vatican News recently published a guide to the art of dying well during the Pandemic.

In fact, planning for all eventualities seems to be the tie that binds. It gives the anxious mind something to do and confers agency when nothing is certain. And, given the research that says thinking about death and mortality makes you happier, that’s probably a good roadmap for us all.

New companies and services that help people plan for end of life are banking on this idea. They offer everything from helping draw up wills and filling out power of attorney forms, to funeral planning services and memorial service trinkets. Even Amazon is selling funeral favors.

And the more intricate the proposal, the more it costs. Even before Covid, death was a $20 billion industry, up $2 billion from 2016, and it’s growing. It’s giving the global wellness industry, recently valued at $4.5 million, a run for its money.

All too aware of the opportunity to increase profits, as well as understanding that Covid requires a certain velvet glove approach, companies are offering options for artisanal deaths, anything from death doulas to digital memorial scrapbooks to online funerals, and caskets made of a beloved bookshelf or piece of furniture. One mortician, activist, and self-proclaimed funeral industry rabble-rouser discusses death positive content on her YouTube channel.

For millennials, who want to ability to curate their deaths just as they do every other aspect of their lives, this customization is an especially attractive option. But since money is a source of concern and top-of-mind for most people these days, some companies are addressing this this head-on. Eternava sells a service which turns your ashes into diamonds, and Everest has just announced a free concierge funeral service for some of their clients. They negotiate with funeral homes for the best price and get the family the policy money in as little as 3 days. “People often don’t know where to start. They don’t have the money, or they fear being taken advantage of. “We’ve launched an innovative solution in an industry that has not experienced significant change over the past several decades” says Mark Duffey, Everest’s President and CEO.

Innovative indeed.

One company is even trying to banish thoughts of the concrete and the practical. Cake’s website says: “it may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of end-of-life planning, but we chose it because it’s a warm, inviting symbol of celebrating and honoring life”. The founders say they intentionally named the company that because they thought the word would spread joy.

Whatever they’re selling, all these companies and services essentially speak to the same universal need: finding some relief from worry and some happiness amid the pain.

And isn’t that exactly what we’re all looking for right now?

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