Grief Film Review: ‘Departures’

We recommend “Departures,” the 2009 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, currently in theaters. “Departures” is a moving, inspiring glimpse into Japan’s cultural heritage of caring for a body after death.

When a young cellist loses his orchestra job, he and his wife move back to his hometown. He answers a classified ad for a company called “Departures,” thinking it’s a travel agency. He discovers, instead, that the job involves washing and casketing bodies. Daigo overcomes his initial horror and comes to love the reverential ceremonies, which are transformational for the families involved  .  .  .  and eventually for him and his wife.

“Departures” beautifully depicts an approach to death that could teach our culture much.  This approach is midway between a mainstream funeral and caring for our own at home.  Although a professional washes and dresses the body in “Departures,” it happens in the deceased person’s home with the family surrounding their loved one during the entire ritual. There is no embalming. Shocking, funny, and profoundly moving things happen during this process.

Anyone interested in threshold work, spiritual openings, emotional transformations, or exquisite filmmaking will enjoy “Departures.” To see a trailer, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaFRCLAYEF0

Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan are authors of the award-winning Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond. Reach them at www.NanBec.com or www.FullLifeGoodDeath.blogspot.com.

Nancy Manahan & Becky Bohan

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Dr. Nancy Manahan, Ph.D., is a community college English teacher, now retired. Becky Bohan, M.A., is the retired Vice-President of Knowledge Design and Delivery, a training consulting company. Nancy and Becky both received undergraduate degrees in English from the University of Minnesota. They have published four previous books. Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond is the unforgettable, inspiring story of the authors’ sister-in-law, a professor of nursing diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at 55. It reveals Diane’s moving home death, her unusual family-directed green funeral, and astonishing after-death communications. The book has won seven regional and national awards, including the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award and the 2008 Midwest Book Award. The authors give presentations to hospices, churches, colleges, and holistic medicine groups. They make their home in Minneapolis. For more information, visit nanbec.com.

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