The high cost of death — and what we can do about it
Everyone knows that the death of a loved one is painful. But we don’t talk about how painful it really is. It isn’t just grief; it is all the additional burdens of loss. The frayed relationships. The lowered productivity at work. The hours upon hours spent doing tedious tasks and filling out endless paperwork. And, of course, the massive financial strain of paying for it all.
If we want to truly understand the impact of loss—and help those affected by it—we shouldn’t be measuring just by the millions of Americans who die each year, but by the billions of dollars it costs their families: in services, in unexpected costs, in unnecessary fees, lost wages, and wasted hours. We should be counting the total impact by the profits lost by businesses, by broken homes and estranged siblings, by increased therapy sessions and prescriptions, by the extra strain placed on whole communities.
Until now, nobody has been tracking these numbers, for the same reason that we are unprepared for these challenges of loss when they come: The cultural taboo against talking about death directly. Americans prefer to talk about death obliquely, in the abstract, in hushed tones. Making us generally unaware of all of the issues that loss brings, and allowing the bureaucracies and industries that mediate these challenges to become hugely inefficient and even, in some cases, predatory.
As part of our mission to change the way the world deals with loss, therefore, we at Empathy set out to determine the real costs of a death in the family, to get clear data about the scope of the problem, and bust open the taboo that has for too long kept it out of the public consciousness.
Visit the Empathy website to read the full blog, “The high cost of death — and what we can do about it.”