Death and Culture
Interested in using this conversation guide? Click here to tell us about it!
We’re happy to help!
We all share a common inheritance– living will end with death. Yet, cultures around the world vary widely in their relationship, traditions, and approach to death and dying. Death can be taboo, a denial, an acceptance, a release, a celebration, or a battle. Without discussions or instructions, who teaches us about death and dying? Movies and media often shape our feelings around death with video games, misinformation and fear. This conversation is about exploring how our personal experiences with death might support our acceptance or denial of death.
Let's Get Started!
Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate.
Why We're Here (~10 min)
Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.
How We'll Engage (~5 min)
These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)
- Be curious and listen to understand.
- Show respect and suspend judgment.
- Note any common ground as well as any differences.
- Be authentic and welcome that from others.
- Be purposeful and to the point.
- Own and guide the conversation.
What We’ll Talk About
Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
- What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
- What would your best friend say about who you are?
- What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
Death and Culture (~40 min)
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..
- Were conversations around death a part of your upbringing? Do you crave being able to talk about death or do you avoid it? Why?
- What experiences have you had with major loss or death? How has that impacted your perception of life or shifted your priorities in life?
- What symbolism, thoughts, or feelings arise when you think of dying and death?
- What practice or philosophy helps guide your understanding of dying, death and post-death?
- How does our current culture influence your personal ideas around “death”? What does it look like in your community?
- Have you thought or planned for your own death or that of a loved one? What was the experience like?
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
- What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
- What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
- How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?