Ten Ways to Start a Conversation about Death

Tonight, after an entire day working with the dying, I find myself getting back in my car to drive all the way to West Hollywood from my apartment in Koreatown.  I’m tired, my back hurts, nothing about my day has been ideal.  I still have emails to send and paperwork to finish, but I need to go to West Hollywood for an important reason, I need to talk about death.  Tonight I’m going to the Death Café.  


You might be wondering if I get enough death talk throughout my day?  Yes, and no.  Everyone I see technically is dying, but that's not all we talk about.  Most of the time my clients and I reminisce about the past, talk about life, family, love, that super grumpy cat on Instagram, but not too often do we talk directly about death.  So, as someone who is genuinely curious about this ever present mystery I need to take these opportunities when I can get them.  


Recently, John Underwood, the founder of the “Death Café” franchise, died. A message from Donna Molloy, John Underwood's Wife.  In the wake of this news I’ve been thinking about the contribution this man gave to the world.  A safe space to talk about death.  Underwood’s demise happened rather suddenly and the Death Community has certainly been mournful. But these death-safe zones aren’t going anywhere, in fact the franchise has exploded since its humble beginnings in 2011.  Currently there are 4828 Death Cafes in 51 countries !  Death Café continues to grow because anyone and everyone is encouraged to hold their own, as long as they follow the communal guidelines posted on their website.  The world wide Death Café movement has even inspired several spin-offs that vary in deathly themes, but the core of it remains the same, the need to talk about death.   So, in the spirit of keeping the conversation alive, here’s ten ways you can start your own conversations about death!


  1. Share your story.  What’s made you curious about death?

  2. Be Vulnerable.  Have the courage to “go there” in your conversations.  

  3. Be Curious, explore the mystery.  Ask your wildest questions.  

  4. Be honest about your fears.

  5. Be Brave, you don’t have to avoid topics just because they make  people uncomfortable.  

  6. Be Creative.

  7. Laugh about it, because sometimes death can be funny.

  8. Cry about it, because is also terribly sad.  

  9. Get mad about it!  I WANT TO KNOW WHY!

  10. Participate in death themed social media like Death Doula L.A.’s Facebook or @deathdoulala Instagram, it helps to get the conversation out there in any way possible, so why not enjoy a few death memes while you’re at it!  


Jill Schock