After reporting on the Virginia Tech shootings and grieving the murder of a high school friend, journalist and author Erika Hayasaki discovered a death education class at Kean University in New Jersey.
Taught by Norma Bowe, the class was developed to fill a void in American culture and give students a place to talk about and process death.
"I think in our culture we spend a lot of time avoiding death," Bowe told NPR. "We don't talk about it. If someone we love dies, we, if we're lucky, get maybe a three-day hiatus from work and from school and we're just supposed to move on. And I think that's a real disservice because I think unless you're able to properly grieve, you know, you can get pretty physically sick from carrying around that kind of a burden... I wanted to give a place where students could feel safe exploring, you know, the ways that grief could hold us back, that we can stay stuck, ultimately to kind of encourage people to live their lives because we don't know when we're going to take our last breath."
Hayasaki published a book based on her experience, titled "The Death Class."
Bowe joins The Daily Circuit to discuss her class and the conversation she hopes to inspire with her curriculum.
"The only thing we can change is our attitude about death," Bowe told Huffington Post. "We can learn about it. We can plan for it. We can talk to our loved ones about it. We can live our lives the way they should be lived. All of this takes inordinate amounts of courage because death is scary. Living takes courage, too. If we can respect death as inevitable, instead of ignoring it for as long as we can before the health problems set in, we can live with a renewed sense of passion and wonder. The world around us can be a truly amazing place. The knowledge of our own mortality can even be the fire in our belly that pushes us to our maximum potential."