TED Talk: Life that doesn't end with death (2013)

Funeral ceremonies are a raucous affair, where commemorating someone who's died is not so much a private sadness but more of a publicly shared transition. And it's a transition that's just as much about the identity of the living as it is about remembrance of the dead.

This TED Talk has received over 1.5 million views since it was first posted in 2013, and I can probably account for at least 100 of those viewings myself. Kelli Swazey discusses her anthropological observations of other cultural approaches to death, dying and the funeral or memorial process of transition. How grief, loss and death affect identity are a huge component of our cultural attitudes and social sensitivities.

This 14-minute presentation explores the impact of funeral transition ceremonies on the community of the living. After watching the video, check out the discussion questions I listed below or click the button to download the complete conversation guide.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did you feel self-aware of your role in the community at a funeral?

  2. What are some situations that might confer social death, but not medical/biological death? What are situations that reflect the opposite?

  3. Discuss a time that you experienced “a period of transition as the relationship between the living and the dead is transformed but not ended”

  4. What are some topics you could raise when discussing the social life of a death?

  5. Other reflections?

These prompts might help you start an important conversation with someone you love, or explore a topic about end-of-life transition in a new way. If you’d like to take your end-of-life conversation to the next step, I hope you’ll contact me.