“Death Over Dinner” Demystifies the End-of-Life Process | Shalom Austin

“Death Over Dinner” Demystifies the End-of-Life Process

Jewish Family Service, The Jewish Outlook

Sep 26, 2023

By Maura Kinney, LCSW – Grief and Loss Therapist 

The Death Over Dinner Project was founded by entrepreneur and activist Michael Hebb in response to the startling statistic that, while 75 percent of Americans say they want to die at home, only 25 percent actually do. Alarmed by this disconnect, Hebb shares in his 2013 TEDMED Talk that it has become clear to him, through conversations with physicians and researchers that “how we want to die represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having.”  

The culture of fear and denial around our relationship to mortality and dying is not just costly at an emotional level. Hebb discusses how the vast majority of bankruptcies in America are due to end-of-life expenses. We are losing so much by avoiding conversations about our own death and the deaths of those we love.  

Of course, it is difficult to begin these conversations out of nowhere, especially amidst our current cultural silence on the topic. This is where Death Over Dinner comes in. Designed to happen over dinner – the space where we are scripted to sit, slow down, be with each other, and have meaningful discussions – Death over Dinners has sparked hundreds of thousands of meaningful conversations about death over the last decade. Through these dinners, attendees are prompted to dig into three distinct, yet deeply connected topics:  

1. What do we want our final days to be like?  

2. Who do we want near us?  

3. How can we support the end of life wishes of those closest to us?  

So many of us wish so deeply for the people we care most about to have the end-of-life experience that they want. But when the time comes for decisions to be made, so often we find that we don’t know what our loved ones desire. By asking those we love to wrestle with this question, we prompt ourselves to reflect on it as well. Death Over Dinner is a beginning to that conversation.  

Join Jewish Family Service for a Death Over Dinner virtual event on October 11th, from 7-8:30pm. Bring your own dinner or dessert and join us on Zoom for conversation and connection. Help us demystify the end-of-life process and begin to understand that talking about death doesn’t shorten our life, it deepens it. 

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