• AJ Hawkins

My Life As A Teenage Deathling

Hello, my name is Laney - I live in a small town in Pennsylvania and I'll be entering my senior year of high school this year. I plan on applying and attending to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in the fall of 2020, where I will study forensic science. 


Laney at Forensics Camp with Graham Hetrick, the coroner of Dauphin County who is known for his show, 'The Coroner: I Speak for The Dead'

I'm always asked by adults how I ended up here - why I want to work with the dead and not the living. Truthfully, I'm sort of unsure myself. In this day and age, if you want to learn about something, the best route is the internet. I wouldn't be able to count the hours I've spent watching forensic documentaries, videos from Ask a Mortician (Caitlin Doughty!) and other miscellaneous videos surrounding death. Something just clicked. I felt like this could be something that I could master for a living. I knew science and medical related fields were up my alley, but this field fit my likes and areas I felt comfortable in perfectly. 

Of course entering in this field makes me a strong advocate for the death positive movement. Talking comfortably about this subject for me is a breeze - but for others, it breaks their heart to even think about. It is difficult for me to understand why they want to avoid it - I know that I'm going to die, like all of us.

This illustration is the background for Laney's phone, and has been hanging in her locker for the past two years. By @yarrow.blood

I always tell my parents for my 18th birthday, I want to go to an office and write my advanced directive (a document stating how you wish to die, other medical decisions and how your body will be cared for after death, ect). They laugh and think it's a joke, tell me I have nothing to worry about, and move forward. They tell me I won't need to think about this for years to come, and pay no matter to the situation. 


Laney and her car after her accident

I think differently. I think that tomorrow, I could be T-Boned at an intersection and have my life taken from me in a second. Or maybe, be diagnosed with an unforeseen, chronic disease. In November of 2018, I totaled my first car after having my license for a month. If I didn't make it out with a couple of bruises and a headache and the situation was worse, what would they have done with me? Nobody ever really knows what will happen, and I believe we can't neglect to consider the possibilities and unfortunate circumstances life can throw our way.



I feel alone in having a voice in this movement. Most teenagers at this age could care less about death and how it interlaces with their life. I push it as much as I can whilst being respectful - I ask my friends their thoughts and spread my knowledge in the classroom when presented the opportunity. Young adults should be aware of the upcoming changes within the death industry and how it effects them and their loved ones. When I say alkaline hydrolysis in a group setting, most adults aren't aware of the term let alone young adults. I look up to older folks in this movement, but they can sometimes be neglectful of my ideas because of my age. One of the best ways to make change is to introduce ideas to children when they are young so they are guided, or not guided, to feel a certain way about death. If you paint death to be a black hole monster of nothingness, kids will believe it. If you tell them it happens to everyone, and there is no harm in it - while it may be more complex - it leaves more room for thought and they don't have to start with a fearful mindset.


There is no doubt that every single person on this Earth will face internal conflict surrounding death: it's important they're provided with accurate and useful facts whilst developing their opinions. Helping young adults be aware of death and the complex thoughts surrounding it is a personal mission of mine. I hope in my time as a young adult I can share with my peers what their options are, and share the feelings, thoughts and experiences one may go through whilst facing death. 

- Laney, 17

183 views