Understanding the emotional, financial, and environmental impact of death in America

Death is something that we cannot avoid in life—it will happen to us and to the people around us. While 53% of Americans fear death, according to a recent survey from Psychic Source, others accept the inevitable and plan for it the best they can. One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that grief is a profound and terribly difficult thing.

Grief can come in many forms. Of course, it’s an emotionally centered process, but it can also be compounded by the financial impact of losing a loved one. That’s why being more financially prepared can be the best thing for families and loved ones.

Let’s explore the emotional, financial, and environmental effects of death in America to get a better understanding of what people are facing with grief every day and to see if there’s anything we can do to ease the impact on those left behind.

Processing death

In the United States, death is something that people know is inevitable, but they would rather not talk or think about it. This phenomenon is known as death-denying. Over the decades, Americans have fostered a death-denying culture, and it’s become especially prevalent in the modern era. People often feel uncomfortable discussing death, so many will avoid anything related to it.

This cultural attitude toward passing on from this life can negatively impact people in various ways, and not just on an emotional level. It can lead to avoiding making financial preparations for family members and others you will ultimately leave behind. Processing death and working toward accepting the inevitable can be difficult, especially in the death-denying culture we have in the U.S. However, addressing it financially and logistically is possible—and important. 

Financial preparations

Whether you’re relatively relaxed about the idea of dying or you’re more fearful of it, there’s no question that setting certain goals and preparing for that time is something many people prioritize, especially as they get older.

Psychic Source found that 6 in 10 Americans have a bucket list they’d like to achieve before dying, with some of these goals having financial impacts. Buying a house was an important accomplishment for 39% of Americans, while 23% aim to get married, and 22% want to become parents. One in five would also like to start their own business. Whatever the goal post, it’s natural for people to want certain aspects of life in place because they really don’t know when it will be their time.

As the saying goes, “getting your affairs in order” is imperative to ensure who or what you leave behind is cared for in the best way possible. A report from Empathy about the cost of dying showed that a loved one’s death could cost families as much as $20,000 for various expenses, including funeral and burial costs, sorting out the loved one’s finances, and more. This amount comes before any loss of income that loved ones may have because of needing to take time away from work, as well as costs associated with mental health treatment around grief. 

Larger impacts

Not only is death something that impacts loved ones, it can also impact the environment. As a recent op-ed noted, the avoidance of death-centered conversations in the U.S. specifically has made the environmental impacts of funerals and traditional burials go largely unnoticed and certainly under-discussed among activists. 

Things like traditional burials are extremely harmful to the environment, as are cremations that collectively emit as much as 360,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. And while there are eco-friendly options, activists and influencers who promote environmental justice and care aren’t talking about it. Taking a more eco-friendly approach to death can be more financially feasible for families in the future, but first, more conversations about “green” death care need to occur.

Accepting the future

At the end of the day, death is something that comes for us all. Avoiding it can burden loved ones and others in your life in measurable and immeasurable ways, creating both emotional, financial, and environmental challenges. This is why it’s important to prepare as much as possible in any way you can—get your finances in order, put money aside for funeral expenses, and, most importantly, draft a will. Leaving clear instructions behind will help everyone to know your wishes and exactly how things should be handled after your passing.

Some of us are more fearful or uncomfortable with the concept of death than others, which is understandable and valid. But with the cost of death being as burdensome for families as studies have shown, financial preparations are the best way to ensure that grief isn’t compounded beyond the emotional aspects and that your passing won’t take a massive financial toll on the people you love.

Interesting Related Article: ” Strategies for Managing Funeral Service Costs Without Sacrificing Quality