Since 2019, no year has really felt normal, and 2023 is no different. Covid continues disrupting our lives, the war in Ukraine grinds on, and new conflicts are some of the most destructive in history.
Join us as we look back on our year in death.
The Top Death and Dying News Stories of 2023
Green Burial Wins
Before the start of 2023, human composting, or natural organic reduction (NOR) was legal in five states (Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado). In 2023, both New York and Nevada legalized the practice, making a total of seven states where NOR is now legal.
Legislation is being proposed in a few additional states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts. If you are passionate about introducing NOR to your state, you can find great resources at Return Home.
Colorado Funeral Home Owners Arrested for Decaying Bodies
In October, neighbors of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Colorado (not associated with any green burial facilities) called in complaints about a strong odor coming from the building. An investigation uncovered 187 bodies in the abandoned building without proper refrigeration.
Many of the bodies that were identified in the facility had been falsely claimed to have been cremated, and family members had even received “cremated remains” of the bodies. Since the discovery, families began lawsuits against the facility over intentionally inflicting emotional distress, negligence, fraud and violating a number of Colorado laws.
In November, Jon and Carie Hallford, the owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home, were arrested on four felony charges, including abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery, according to a statement from the district attorney for Colorado’s 4th judicial district.
While this story may elicit a response of disgust or confusion, we think it also highlights the importance of regulated standards in death care practices, so this abuse doesn’t happen in the future.
Trans Violence & Death
320 trans and gender-diverse people were killed this year around the world, according to a new monitoring report. This means violence directly incited against trans people due to transphobia and transmisogyny, and this number does not include those who were lost to suicide or illnesses that they may be disproportionately impacted by (due to a high intersection of disabilities, poverty, and health conditions within the trans community).
94% of the trans people killed were trans women, and at least 80% were trans women of color. The US and Latin America had the highest percentages of these violent crimes, and many of the victims were between the ages of 19 to 25.
With the increase in anti-trans rhetoric and legislation across the world, but specifically in the US and UK, it is not surprising to see violence against trans folks, trans women, and racialized trans women in particular.
While troubling, these statistics can hopefully inspire an effort to bring dignified death care to those facing this horrible violence. We have explored many topics related to trans death care for you to check out.
- Trans-Death: Exploring Deadnaming Through a Death Positive Lens
- Trans Death Care Advocacy and Resources
- Necropolitics and the Erasure of Trans and Non-Binary Bodies in Death
- Misrepresentation of Trans Dead, and Resources to Prevent it from Happening to You
Icons Lost in 2023
This year we lost some true icons.
On May 24th, we lost the 1980’s pop icon Tina Turner to a long term illness. Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock N Roll, was known for classic songs like “Simply the Best” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Turner had a profound impact on the world, especially as a Black woman, and as a proud queer ally and advocate for LGBTQ rights.
On July 26th, Sinéad O’ Connor was found unresponsive in her home in London. Sinéad was an Irish singer and songwriter, who brought attention to human rights issues around the world. O’ Connor became a household name after tearing up the image of the pope on Saturday Night Live.
Besides Tina Turner and Sinéad O’ Connor, 2023 saw the deaths of Jerry Springer, Harry Belafonte, David Crosby, Matthew Perry, Andre Braugher, and others.
Finally, it is important to recognize the impact of global conflicts in 2023. Since the war in Ukraine began in 2022, almost 10,000 civilians have been killed. Additionally, violence in Haiti and Iran, and other civil conflicts claimed the lives of countless individuals.
On October 7th, 2023, 1,200 Israelis were killed by the armed wing of Hamas. The subsequent invasion of Gaza has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians (over 8000 of them children). Additionally, at least 67 journalists have been killed bringing information from Palestine and Israel to the world, making it the deadliest conflict for journalists in history.
Looking Towards 2024
Here is to a 2024 filled with justice for oppressed and marginalized peoples, greater respect and understanding of diverse death practices, more green burial legislation, continued openness around conversations of grief and death, and hope for a better world.