It’s a fact of life that we are all going to die one day. There is no ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card when it comes to death….no deals to be made….no exceptions. For many people, thinking about death evokes strong emotions of anxiety and fear. Others will push thoughts of death aside, laugh at them, dismiss them or not think about the inevitability of death at all.
While it’s not something we want to think about, at some stage of our life we are forced to confront it, whether we like it or not. If we are fortunate enough to reach adulthood, there is a strong likelihood that we will be affected by the deaths of our loved ones, and possibly have to plan a funeral before our own comes about.
Most western societies continue to have an uneasy relationship with the perceptions and realities of death and dying. Conversations focused on these topics are usually considered to be ‘morbid’ or ‘taboo’. In the last few years, there has been a social change happening, with organisations and community groups offering more opportunities to consider your own death, and to plan for it. The movement has evolved from small online communities to websites, workshops, seminars, death cafes, death dinner parties and conferences.
These are just a few of the many groups and organisations that are providing information and resources to help ease death anxiety.
Dying Matters Website Dying Matters is a coalition of 32,000 members across England and Wales, which aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for their end of life. Members include hospices, care homes, charities supporting elderly people, a wide range of faith organisations, community organisations, schools and colleges, academic bodies, trade unions, the legal profession and the funeral sector. Their aim is to encourage people to talk about their wishes towards the end of their lives, including where they want to die and their funeral plans, with friends, family and loved ones, and how best to start those conversations.
Death Cafe is a social franchise that was started in 2011 in London, and now exists all over the world. They are casual gatherings described as “just people getting together to drink tea, eat cakes and discuss death”. These never involve agendas, advertising or set conclusions – however, interesting conversations are guaranteed! Their aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their lives. To date, they’ve held 4067 Death Cafes in 42 countries.
Death Dinner Party is described as “an event unlike anything you’ve experienced: a three-course feast, a roomful of like-minded people, and intriguing conversations about death and dying. Sometimes it gets serious, occasionally it gets weird, at times it’s hilarious. But it’s always inspiring.” Each dinner party features guest speakers who tell their stories, share their perspectives and spark conversations. Speakers might include a funeral director, an artist, a spiritual leader, an end-of-life consultant, or someone who’s had a near-death experience.
YG2D (You’re Going to Die) is a monthly event held in San Francisco’s Mission District. It usually takes the form of a half open-mic/half curated night, described as “bringing people creatively into the conversation of death and dying while helping to inspire and empower them out of the context of unabashedly confronting loss and mortality.” They have grown to encompass “a deeper and more varied exploration of death and dying, one driven by creativity, fuelled by arts and entertainment, writing and music, interviews and stories through any means and all social forums available.”
Death Salon hold public events in the US and UK, and provide an online community through both Death Salon and their sister organization, The Order of the Good Death. Their aim is to increase discussion on this often-ignored subject, focusing more on ideas and the broader cultural impacts of death than one’s personal interactions with mortality, and for “for collaboration and innovation”. “We are out to change the way society looks at death by helping people engage with the phenomenon in meaningful ways. We curate the events to bring the public the best thinkers, death practitioners, and artists working with death”.
Death should not be a taboo topic. It is more that we aren’t encouraged to discuss our own individual demise. However, it is a conversation we all need to have, so if nothing else, we can ensure our choices are respected at the end of our life.
Yourlifetalks.com website is our contribution towards ‘kick-starting’ enlightening and meaningful ‘conversations’ with our loved ones, about both life and death.
We have created the following ‘Conversation Starter’ card decks of 50 questions in each deck. They are designed to encourage families to take the first important steps in discussing the subjects of a ‘Celebration of Your Life Story’ and the ‘Inevitability of Death’ – and saying that it’s perfectly okay to have meaningful conversations with our loved ones about both of these topics.
‘Your Life Story’ conversation cards……Talking about your life journey and recalling your fondest memories and life experiences can be lots of fun. Your family will enjoy discovering facts from your childhood and hearing about your early adult life, and the adventures and anecdotes along the way. It can help everyone to get to know you in new and different ways.
‘Your Life Wishes’ conversation cards…..Discussing your end of life wishes covers more serious and practical topics including making a Will, various Powers of Attorney, how you would like to be cared for and what medical treatments, if any, you would decline if you have a life-limiting condition, what funeral arrangements you would prefer and how you would like to be remembered.