In the 20th century, with hospitals, nursing homes, and young people just plain not dying as often, death receded from view and public mourning grew passé. “Grief was tacky; it was outdated. Now, having control over your grief was honored and respected,” Sweeney said.
Stoicism has thus ruled for generations. And that hasn’t necessarily been good.
When researching her book, which is about American mourning traditions, Sweeney found that many mourners today feel alienated. People act awkwardly around them, not knowing what to do. “Death is just not expected to happen to us—to you and me,” she said. “It’s not part of the American narrative of life, which is so focused on youth and success and triumph and winning.”
But that denial is beginning to wane.