Let’s Talk About Death Over Dinner

By Emma Pearson

April 20, 2024

Photo by Nadia Valko on Unsplash

19 Feb 2023

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a dinner where the sole focus was to talk about all things Death and Dying. (And Grief, because, heck, it’s inseparable).

I had come across the concept of this kind of dinner during the months after Mike died, and decided, “Okay – I want to do this when the time is right, when I have more energy, when I feel I can muster the focus and resilience to get through an evening without needing to hide out in my bedroom”.

But then more things came my way, rocking my world even further off balance….

Julia’s spiralling, death, aftermath, COVID, new ways of living and socialising for everyone….

Years passed.

But now, almost 6 years later, the idea relodged itself in my brain and I decided to give it a go.

I have a ready-made group of local wimmin friends on a Whatsapp group, so I started with an invitation to them. A couple were willing to give the idea a go, and it went from there. (A few others said words to the effect of, “No and hell no”, so clearly it wasn’t an invitation suitable for everyone).

Six guests joined me. We talked in French all evening (three of us are decently bilingual, three are bona fide Francophones, and one is an amazingly trilingual Italian). And we simply talked about things related to death, dying and grieving. No normal chitchat. No general catching up on people’s lives. No gossip. No moaning about the state of the world. Just right down to the business of death and dying.

How refreshing – at least to me! How I ache for Real Conversations. And not “just” with my Grieflings.

We remembered people who had died, who had touched our lives, who had left us gifts.

And honoured them by lighting a candle, talking about them.

We talked about how we wanted to be remembered.

We talked about how we would like to die, how we would like things to be, given the choice, at our own ends of life.

We talked about what we wanted to have happen with our bodies afterwards.

We talked about whether or not we had written our advanced directives (some have, some haven’t).

I created a playlist of songs that my friends said they would like to have played at their funeral or ceremony – and some of us shared the meaning of the music, or the reasons behind the choices.

And my buddies came up with their own brilliant questions – such as, “What do you feel you need to get rid of, what do you not want to be found by others, after you die?” (teenage diaries!!)

I asked a question that I often reflect on, “Do we, does society, fear Grief more than we fear Death?”

It was a moving evening.

The effects are still landing. For me. For my buddies – for I receive notes and reflections still now.

These are important conversations.

Not to prepare us, necessarily, for our deaths. I don’t think we can be properly prepared.

But to talk about our wishes, to share our fears, to talk about what matters now, while we live and breathe.

To start to prepare others.

To remember that life can end at any time.

And it is while we are healthy and – presumably – some way away from death – that we should best prepare ourselves and others for some of what is inevitable.

To clearly articulate our wishes for what to do with our bodies to those who we suspect will be charged with that task.

And so much more.

I want to thank my merry band of death speakers and eaters.

I feel honoured by your trust.

I am touched by your courage.

I am strengthened by your beliefs.

I am inspired by your wishes and wisdom.

I will have more such dinners – with these lovely guests, and with others.

For there is so much to discuss.

For more information, amazing resources, book and prompts – visit: https://deathoverdinner.org/

About Emma Pearson

8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Death Over Dinner

  1. What a brilliant idea Emma. So far I have only had this conversation with my lovely Buddhist hair stylist, but I think death over dinner is an idea I will steal , once I can muster the energy to host.
    But please tell me that formal dining arrangement is not yours?!

    1. Annie – it’s not at all my creation! Use the link in the post and/or read the book by the (similar) title – Let’s have dinner and talk about death – everything is there for you. 😉

  2. Emma, this sounds remarkable. Perhaps I should host one of these too.
    And it also bugs me that this does sounds remarkable – that we don’t just have these conversations as part of our everyday life.

  3. Oh Emma, how I wish I could have joined you. Maybe one day when I’m back in France. Pippin’s death opened me to so much about death and dying. I’ve experienced in dozing moment how I could be so tired that I’d know death was near and feel no fear. Reading Jung too. Well done you for all you’re doing (and writing) that brings us closer us to such a necessary awakening. Thank you from the depth of my being 😘

    1. and you’d have been right at home with the French, too.
      Whenever our paths cross physically, we can host one together.

  4. How wonderful. Tough but it sounds inspiring if approached with grace & compassion. Today is the first anniversary of the death of a close friend. No one ever mentions her. I find that odd and rather sad. Your dinner sounds more healthy.

    1. Thank you Renia
      A tough experience, indeed, that your close friend died, and that she is disappearing off people’s radars (at least in terms of conversation) so rapidly. Very odd, very sad. Yes.
      You can join a dinner any time. We can talk about your friend. And Edward. And others.

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